China NewSpace No. 5: Who are these companies, anyway?
Welcome back to China NewSpace, your weekly look into the Chinese private space industry. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do so here.
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This week I talk about the challenges of matching English and Chinese company names, and then we look at some rankings of the best space companies, courtesy of EO and FutureAerospace. I’ll show you where you can start to take a deeper dive on figuring out who all these space companies are, and also Xiaomi’s Lei Jun popped over to the National People’s Congress for a chat.
What’s in a Name?
For this week’s translation, I’ve done something a little different. Rather than translate an article, I’ve translated a list. Specifically, a list of the top thirty Chinese space companies and one of the top ten up and coming space companies.
The lists were presented at the second annual Silk Road Commercial Space Symposium, which was held in Shaanxi last October 31. They are the joint creations of EO Company (亿欧), a media and business services group, and FutureAerospace, a space-focused think-tank.
“Translate a list of companies?!” I imagine you asking, incredulously. Apparently my imaginary interlocutor hasn’t studied that much Chinese. Figuring out the English name of a Chinese company, especially of a relatively new company, is not exactly straightforward, and sometimes takes a lot more googling than you would think.
Non-Chinese company names can be transliterated into roughly equivalent Chinese characters, but this often sounds strange or awkward to Chinese speakers. Equivalently, non-Chinese speakers often find pronouncing Chinese difficult, especially when it’s represented in pinyin, the official romanization system with its non-intuitive Xs and Qs.
Therefore, Chinese companies will typically choose a separate English name rather than trying to represent their Chinese name. To take iSpace as an example, their Chinese name is 星际荣耀, which could be romanized as Xingji Rongyao, but if you haven’t studied Chinese you probably wouldn’t know the X is pronounced similar to Sh (before I get hate mail, yes I know it’s not identical).
Companies can do a direct translation of the meaning of their name, and in the case of iSpace it would be Interstellar Glory. Sometimes I think that a Chinese company or brand name would have been better as a direct translation, and sometimes I can see why they chose not to do that.
So companies will often pick an English name they feel represents their brand, even if it bears little or no relation to their Chinese name. Naturally, an English name can be an afterthought if the company is not actively expanding overseas, and a company’s English name can be particularly hard to track down if there is no website.
Digression over, back to the Top 30 list.
The companies in the Top 30 list were chosen from a pool of 100 companies and were evaluated based on such dimensions as “technical strength, liquidity, capacity for innovation, capital market recognition, growth potential, competitiveness, and quality of team operations.” Most of these metrics are quite vague, and unfortunately the compilers did not include any of the data they used. Still, even if they are subjective, these rankings are a useful starting point to get your mind around the state of a rapidly growing industry.
The article where I found the lists didn’t have much that was very interesting besides the Top 30 and Top 10 lists, so I haven’t translated it, but if you’d like to have a look anyway, whether through Google Translate or your own formidable Mandarin skills, here’s the link:
2019 Commercial Space Top 30
(SOEs in bold)
ASES (埃依斯航天) — Launch Services
Chang Guang Satellite Technology (长光卫星) — Satellite Operator
Tatwah Smartech (达华智能) — Satellite Operator
Guodian Gaoke (国电高科) — Satellite Operator
ADA Space (国星宇航) — Satellite Manufacturer)
Aerospace Measurement and Control (航天测控) — TT&C
PIESAT (航天宏图) — Software, Data Processing
Hangtian Xingyun (航天行云) — Satellite Operator
SatelliteHerd (航天驭星) — TT&C
Xi'an Huanyu Satellite (寰宇卫星) — TT&C
JiaHe Info (珈和科技) — Software, Data Processing
ATSPACE (精航伟泰) — Satellite Manufacturer
JZYJ (九州云箭) — Rocket Manufacturer
ExPace (科工火箭) — Rocket Manufacturer
SMotor (灵动飞天) — Rocket Manufacturer
LandSpace (蓝箭航天) — Rocket Manufacturer
Space Tube (斯北图) — Satellite Manufacturer
TIRAIN (天润科技) — Software, Data Processing
Spacety (天仪研究院) — Satellite Manufacturer
MinoSpace (微纳星空) — Rocket Manufacturer
TSC Laser Technology Development (鑫精合) — Rocket Manufacturer
Galactic Energy (星河动力) — Rocket Manufacturer
iSpace (星际荣耀) — Rocket Manufacturer
Space Trek (星途探索) — Rocket Manufacturer
GalaxySpace (银河航天) — Satellite Operator
Aerospace Propulsion (宇航推进) — Rocket Manufacturer
Space Wisdom (宇航智科) — TT&C
Orbita Aerospace (珠海欧比特) — Satellite Operator
TIANTA (中科天塔) — TT&C / Satellite Service Provider
eHiWAY (中科亿海微) — Satellite Supplier (processors)
If SatelliteHerd (number 9) sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the satellite control services company that was profiled in the third issue of China NewSpace.
I’ve included the Chinese names to make it easier for you to do your own research if you’d like, since for a lot of these companies there isn’t that much available in English.
I’ve added two pieces of information that are not in the original: subsector and private vs state-owned, so if there are any mistakes there, the fault is mine. And as always, if I’ve missed anything please let me know.
Top 10 New Commercial Space Companies to Watch
ADA Space (国星宇航) — Satellite Manufacturer
Space Ark (航天方舟) — Satellite Manufacturer
SatelliteHerd (航天驭星) — TT&C
SMotor (灵动飞天) — Launcher Manufacturer
ZeroG Lab (零重空间) — Satellite Supplier
Space Tube (斯北图) — Satellite Manufacturer
pace Pioneer (天兵科技) — Launcher Manufacturer
Space e-Star (天际易达) — TT&C
Space Trek (星途探索) — Launcher Manufacturer
Aerospace Propulsion (宇航推进) — Launcher Manufacturer
If your reaction to seeing thirty-four Chinese space companies (the lists overlap) is that you are unsatisfied and want more, check out the great infographic that Jean Deville put together at The China Aerospace Blog. It separates out Chinese NewSpace companies by sector, and if I counted correctly there are 86 on there.
China NewSpace Mapping is the second one on the page, but there are also neat breakdowns of launchers, constellation projects, and spaceplanes.
May 19: iSpace performed a test of its JD-1 rocket engine for 200 seconds (link in Chinese)
May 21: Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun addressed the National People’s Congress, where he, among other things, recommended that China promote the internet satellite industry through further liberalization (link in Chinese)
May 24: The rocket arrived in Hainan for China’s rover mission to Mars later this year
Until next time
My name is Cory Fitz and I write the China NewSpace newsletter. To better understand China’s young and rapidly growing private space industry, China NewSpace will bring you translations of topical Chinese-language blog posts, articles, etc., as well as a roundup of interesting links and relevant news.
If you have any comments for me, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also find me on Twitter at @cory_fitz