China NewSpace No. 7: Wenchang Space City

Welcome back to China NewSpace, your weekly look into the Chinese private space industry. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you should sign up here.

This week we learn more about developments in China’s southern spaceport of Wenchang, and take a look at a brand new report from Euroconsult.


An Aside

Since the killing of George Floyd, I have struggled a bit with how to respond to the current political moment. Given that I have an (albeit small) soapbox to stand on, saying nothing feels wrong. Equally, this is a newsletter about a niche subject, so it’s easy to come off as being off-topic.

But, I think it’s important to remember that everything is, in some sense, political, and as we go into space, we will bring all of our problems with us. With that in mind, I’d like to just bring a few organizations to your attention that I think are worthwhile and relevant:

JustSpace Alliance

“The mission of The JustSpace Alliance is to advocate for a more inclusive and ethical future in space, and to harness visions of tomorrow for a more just and equitable world today.”

Some other origanizations you might consider donating to:

Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals

Black British Professionals in STEM


Translation

On June 3, the Wenchang International Space City was officially established.

Some context: Wenchang is a city in northeastern Hainan, which is China’s southernmost province and an island in the South China Sea:

(Source: Wikimedia)

It’s also the location for the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site, which is where China’s mission to send a probe to Mars will launch from.

Wenchang is China’s most accessible launch site to the general public. China’s other three launch sites, Jiuquan, Taiyuan, and Xichang, are much more remote and inaccessible.

The Wenchang International Space City is supposed to capitalize on the proximity of the launch site to house industrial parks and tourist destinations and is expected to eventually employ 89,000 people. While the planning and construction has already been underway for a few years, this marks the official beginning of the Space City and its governing body.

Source: TianYaCha, artist conception

Some skepticism is warranted; governments come up with ambitious plans for new developments all the time that eventually fall short of their lofty goals. I think there’s reason to be optimistic about the Space City though, since China’s space program is a national priority and the Space City will receive some of the spillover from that.

This week’s translation comes from an article on the Chinese site Spaceflight Fans, covering the establishment of the Space City.

Highlights:

The Space City will be a part of the Hainan Free Trade Port. Its main governing body is the Wenchang International Space City Administration, which will assign projects to be carried out by the Wenchang International Space City Platform Company.

Although the word “international” is in the name, it’s unclear in what sense any other nations might be involved.

The Space City will have “four bases and one center”:

  • The major scientific and technological innovation aerospace industrial base will focus on the development of satellites, rockets, and aerospace ground equipment

  • The space science and technology innovation strategic industrial base will focus on satellite applications, space science, and exploration

  • The innovation integration industry demonstration base will focus on issues such as the development of electronic information, new materials, high-end equipment, and new energy

  • The aerospace international cooperation industrial base will focus on the development of aerospace international exchange cooperation and transactions, aerospace financial services, and aerospace education and training

  • The aerospace supercomputing center will primarily be used to build and aerospace big data industry cluster

To Watch:

Hainan claims that it wants to “seize the opportunity of commercial aerospace development” but it seems that mostly SOEs are involved now.

Will the Space City just be an industrial park for state-owned enterprises that generates a little tourism income on the side? Or will it become a new site for public-private partnerships and foster the private space industry? This is a development to keep an eye on.

Read the full translation here.


Interesting Link

Private investment fuels China commercial space sector growth, alongside state-backed investment

If you’ve got 5,000 euros to spare, space consulting firm Euroconsult’s China Space Industry Report is out, and looks like a great read. I don’t, so I’ll have to settle for this summary:

Euroconsult’s analysis shows that from 2014 to 2019 there were 319 launches of Chinese manufactured satellites. Of these, 178 were launched in 2018 and 2019, reflecting the recent expansion of China’s manufacturing and launch capabilities.

In the launch sector there have been 46 rounds of private investment in Chinese launch companies since 2014, with total funding raised from both private and government sources of roughly US$1 billion. This investment is targeted at commercial launch companies that are developing more than 20 rockets, many using liquid propellants. Of the launch vehicles being developed, at least seven are expected to have a first launch in 2020 or 2021.

China has built out significant space infrastructure over the past 5-10 years, including the BeiDou satellite navigation constellation, the Gaofen Earth observation constellation, and coming LEO broadband constellations. It has a clear strategy for internationalizing this infrastructure to provide turnkey service in regions including Eurasia, Africa, and Latin America.

It’s fascinating stuff, and I especially liked this chart:

You can really see how 2018 was a turning point in terms of private investment overtaking government investment.


News Roundup

June 1: SatelliteHerd raised tens of millions of RMB in an A+ round of financing (link in Chinese)

Read more about SatelliteHerd in China NewSpace No. 3

June 2: Geely established a ground station for its satellite system (link in Chinese)

More on Geely’s space ambitions

June 3: Galactic Energy successfully completed a fairing separation test (link in Chinese)

Note: A payload fairing is the nose cone around a payload that pops off in space

June 3: Hainan officially established the Wenchang International Space City (link in Chinese)

June 5: Deep Blue Aerospace completed a pre-A round of financing to raise more than 100 million yuan (link in Chinese)

June 5: LandSpace’s Tianque TQ-11 10-ton liquid oxygen methane engine underwent a successful 2000 second test, which is a record for this type of engine (link in Chinese)


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 chinanewspace@gmail.com

You can also find me on Twitter at @cory_fitz