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China Space News Update #14: Spacewalk, Linkspace is back, Shijian-21 and more

Andrew Jones
Andrew Jones
A weekly roundup of developments in the nebulous but energetic Chinese space sector. Created by freelance space reporter and SpaceNews.com correspondent Andrew Jones.
Here’s the roundup for 1-7 November, 2021. Thanks for reading – and feel free to get in touch with comments, feedback and suggestions.

This week: First Shenzhou-13 EVA, the return of Linkspace, Shijian-21, 3 launches and more
Wang Yaping (yellow markings) and Zhai Zhigang outside Tianhe during their Nov, 7, 2021 EVA. Credit: CMSA/BACC/CCTV
Wang Yaping (yellow markings) and Zhai Zhigang outside Tianhe during their Nov, 7, 2021 EVA. Credit: CMSA/BACC/CCTV
Shenzhou-13 EVA-1/CCS EVA-3
Commander Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping exited the Tianhe core module on Sunday, Nov. 7, 1228 UTC to begin a 6.5-hour extravehicular activity, or spacewalk.
In brief:
  • Wang became China’s first woman to participate in an EVA.
  • The pair installed a dual-arm connector to allow Tianhe’s large robotic arm (10 meters long) to join to the smaller arm (5m) to be launched with the Wentian module in mid 2022.
  • Wang wore spacesuit-C, which was optimized for a “smaller astronaut” and delivered on Tianzhou-3 ahead of the arrival of SZ-13.
  • Other tasks included testing the performance of the new-generation EVA spacesuits, the coordination between the astronauts and the robotic arm.
  • The attitude of the space station, with Tianzhou-2 and -3 docked at each end and SZ-13 at the nadir port, was altered for the EVA.
  • The spacewalk is the first of two or three planned for the six-month-long Shenzhou-13 mission.
Andrew Jones
Shenzhou-13 spacewalk #1 is now underway with Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping heading outside Tianhe. Wang becomes China's first woman to participate in an EVA. Spacewalk to last around six hours. https://t.co/XbZrw1hbUs https://t.co/M02bBQzWCe
Space debris mitigation satellite mystery
China’s Shijian-21 looks like it has released a sub-satellite in geostationary orbit as part of its mission, though the object has been marked as an “apogee kick motor” by U.S. space tracking. Time will provide hints as to the operations being carried out in GEO.
An object is now orbiting alongside China’s Shijian-21 debris mitigation satellite - SpaceNews
Launch rate continues apace
China conducted its 41st, 42nd and 43rd launches of 2021 last week, extending its new national launch record, with Jiuquan (northwest), Taiyuan (north) and Xichang (southwest) Satellite Launch Centres all in action. Two launches of military Yaogan remote sensing satellites sandwiched the delivery of SDGSAT-1 (Sustainable Development Goals Sat-1, previously known as CASEarth) to orbit.
#41 - 0742 UTC Nov. 03: Yaogan-32 (02) - CZ-2C - Jiuquan (CASC, launch video, Space.com)
#42 - 0219 UTC Nov. 5: SDGSAT-1 - CZ-6 - TSLC (China Space News, SAST, Space.com, launch video)
43 06.11 03:00 Yaogan-35 (A, B, C) - CZ-2D - XSLC (China Space News, Space.com)
Linkspace return from the dead
China’s first private launch company (est. 2014) has reemerged after what was a near two-year hiatus. 
Linkspace announced Nov. 2 that it had tested an independently-developed electric pump-fed methane-LOX engine named Fengbao-1 as a step towards suborbital launch and landing tests.
Linkspace carried out a successful 300-meter VTVL test with an ethanol-powered tech demonstrator in August 2019 as part of development of the planned NewLine-1 orbital launcher, targeting a first flight in 2019
The company signed an agreement with rocket engine maker Jiuzhou Yunjian for 10-ton thrust methane-LOX engines shortly after to power a larger test vehicle. However silence followed until March this year when the company posted a recruitment notice and now is progressing with its own, independently developed engine.
Linkspace did not provide a new timeline for suborbital and orbital launches following its reemergence. A much newer entrant, Deep Blue Aerospace, last month conducted a 100-meter hop test with the second launch of its Nebula-M tech demonstrator. (Sources: Spacenews, Linkspace)
More commercial news
A very interesting interview with Yao Song, the 29-year-old CEO of new launch company OrienSpace (东方空间), which raised 400 million RMB (US$62.5m) in April, was posted by DeepTech深科技. Yao founded Shenjian Technology in 2016 which focuses on machine learning and was bought in 2018 by Xilinx.
In something of a reflection of the current geopolitical context, Yao sees space resources as first come, first serve, noting from history Western countries exploring the Atlantic and the globe while the Ming Dynasty turned inwards following Zheng He’s voyages.
The launch firm’s “Gravity-1” solid-liquid combo launcher–a first for a Chinese commercial firm–is slated for a first flight in 2023, capable of lifting 3 tonnes to LEO. Gravity-2 will be 50m long and will also be a solid-liquid combo and debut in 2024. Gravity-3 will be liquid and capable of recovery at sea, planned to fly for the first time in 2025. In 2030, Yao plans to start experimenting with commercial crew vehicles & explore space tourism possibly including point-to-point travel; the kind discussed by SpaceX among others.
Private small satellite maker Spacety will cooperate with Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications (BUPT) to build the six-satellite Tiansuan constellation to test 6G, satellite internet and other services. The first sat is set to launch in mid-2022. (Spacety)
The cooperation agreement follows a month after the announcement that Spacety will cooperate with an institute under state-owned CETC to build the Tianxian synthetic aperture radar constellation.
Yangwang-1, a small satellite operated by space resources firm Origin Space, captures aurora from x-class flare (Origin Space)
Jiuzhou Yunjian carried out a combined variable thrust hot fire and gimbal test of its Lingyun-10 methalox engine (JZJY)
Andrew Jones
Jiuzhou Yunjian has conducted a combined variable thrust hot fire and gimbal test of its Lingyun-10 methane-LOX rocket engine. https://t.co/AH9sdnWiJm https://t.co/r0md1Z0cXN https://t.co/9KBX5wlOF7
Launch firm OneSpace unveils new flight control product (OneSpace)
Deep Blue Aerospace on recycling its Nebula-M1 VTVL test stage (DBA)
Galactic Energy’s Ceres-1 solid rocket arrives at Jiuquan in preparation for the company’s second orbital launch attempt.
Cosmic Penguin
Of the many new small satellite private LSPs all over the world that were formed in the 2010s, only @RocketLab & @VirginOrbit made it to orbit more than once so far. Can this pretty much unknown Chinese one be the 3rd? 🤔 https://t.co/qG9nZrjexU
Science and Exploration
A race to Mars and back? China is planning a complex Mars sample return mission which could beat NASA and ESA’s joint mission to delivering Red Planet rocks to Earth (N.B. China’s mission is less complex). (SpaceNews)
ILRS: Russia-China lunar station project needs optical communication and quantum technology, says Russian expert (Sputnik)
The China Manned Space Agency releases a first video of Shenzhou-13 crew in action aboard Tianhe (CMSA)
Shenzhou-13 crew test the microbial content of water video (CMSA)
Andrew Jones
Shenzhou-13: A first brief look at the routines and activities of the three astronauts aboard Tianhe, more than a couple of weeks after they arrived (CMSA) https://t.co/3rxtIch56P https://t.co/zNNeZ0sAeM
Articles and other updates
  • FOBS: China’s Fractional Orbital Bombardment System “does not change the balance of power in Earth’s orbit, nor does it usher in a new phase of American vulnerability to Chinese weapons,” according to academics Bleddyn Bowen and Cameron Hunter. (APLN)
  • China’s Shijian-20 hints at space warfare prowess by dodging US surveillance (SCMP)
  • US calls space wild west, China says policing it normalises warfare (SCMP)
  • One way to help prevent wars in space? Military hotlines with Russia and China (SpaceNews)
  • This picture of Chinese astronauts having lunch has been doctored: Nope, no barbeque was fired up and eaten in space… (AFP Fact Check)
  • The 800th Institute under the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology manufactured a single-piece, 21m long, 3.8m diameter LOX storage tank. (SAST)
Thanks very much for reading – and feel free to get in touch with comments, feedback and suggestions.
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Andrew Jones
Andrew Jones @AJ_FI

A weekly roundup of developments in the nebulous but energetic Chinese space sector. Created by freelance space reporter and SpaceNews.com correspondent Andrew Jones.

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