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DFH#10: China’s 1st EVA with Tianhe, 4 launches and a bunch more

The Dongfang Hour
The Dongfang Hour
Your Weekly China Space Industry Summary, with a touch of eccentricity and some attempts at humor. By Blaine Curcio and Jean Deville, and with editing by Orbital Gateway Consulting Intern Aurélie Gillet

What's up in Chinese Space this Week?
In this week’s Newsletter Issue #10 covering 5 - 11 July 2021, we discuss the following:
  1. China’s 1st Extra Vehicular Activity with Tianhe (and 2nd ever EVA)
  2. Plethora of launches in a single week
  3. Guangzhou and Tianjin add satellite internet to their Development Plans
  4. CNSA publishes further Mars images captured by the Zhurong rover instruments
  5. Expace’s future Kuaizhou-1B rocket passes design review
  6. AALPT completes tests for new kerolox engine test facility
  7. Chinese commercial launch company Rocket Group completes new round of funding
  8. PIESat announced the creation of a South China HQ in Foshan
  9. Satellite Herd completes installation of 4.2m aperture S/X band TT&C ground station in Azerbaijan
  10. CASCI sets up a “Space Post” service to the Chinese Space Station as yet another Taobao space stunt
  11. Jiahe Info and tech media 36Kr publish the 2021 Remote Sensing Industry Report
  12. GeeSpace receives ISO 26262 ASIL-D
  13. Qingdao Airlines and Partners visit AeroSat Link
  14. One year anniversary of Apstar-6D launch
1) China’s 1st Extra Vehicular Activity with Tianhe (and 2nd ever EVA)
Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo Performed an EVA on July 4th
Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo Performed an EVA on July 4th
Taikonauts Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo successfully completed a 7-hour Extra Vehicular Activity on July 4th, marking the second EVA ever by China, the first one being in 2008 with the crew of Shenzhou 7 (which lasted only 33mins). During EVAs, astronauts basically get in pressurized space suits and conduct activities in the vacuum of space. The EVA is one of the highlights of the Shenzhou 12 mission, after barely 2 weeks in space (Shenzhou 12 docked with the Tianhe module on June 17).
During the EVA, work on the robotic arm and on the camera was performed, as well as an emergency return drill. These are operations that have been rehearsed countless times by the taikonauts during the underwater training sessions. Watch DFH episode 41 below for cool videos of this EVA!
China Performs Spacewalk at the Chinese Space Station, Plethora of Launches in a Single Week - Ep 41
2) Plethora of launches in a single week
In just one week, we saw China perform 4 launches, a rare occurrence even for a country which plans 40+ launches in 2021. This is made possible also because China has multiple launchpads and preparation of each launch can be done in parallel.
The first launch occurred on July 3rd at Taiyuan launch center with the launch of five payloads aboard a Long March 2D - the main payload being the Jilin-1 Kuanfu-01B, a high res sub-meter level resolution satellite built by EO company Charming Globe, and believed to weigh 1.25 tons.
The second launch took place at the Jiuquan launch center on July 5th (China time), putting the Fengyun-3E into orbit on-board a Long March 4C. The Fengyun-3E is a meteorological satellite operating in SSO.
The third launch occurred the next day on July 6th. A Long March 3C put a Tianlian 1-05 satellite into geostationary orbit. The Tianlian satellites are China’s geostationary relay satellites, which as their name suggests, are “relays” between Chinese spacecraft in LEO and ground stations. Tianlian satellites are notably what enable the Chinese space station to maintain near-continuous communications with Chinese ground control.
Lastly, on July 9th, a Long March 6 sent a cluster of 5 Ningxia-1 satellites into orbit. This is the 2nd cluster of satellites from the Ningxia constellation, the first 5 having been launched in 2019, also on an LM6. 
3) Guangzhou and Tianjin Add Satellite Internet to their Development Plans
The cities of Guangzhou and Tianjin added satellite internet to their development plans. In Guangzhou, we have an “Implementation Plan for Building a National Digital Economy Innovation and Development Pilot Zone in Guangzhou”, with one of the tools being used to build it being satellite internet (in addition to some far-out ideas like quantum communication networks and 6G).
In Tianjin, we saw the city publish its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), which included several significant space elements. Notably, the city aims to reach batch production of the LM-5, 7, and 8 rockets while making progress in developing rocket components. The plan also calls for building a satellite internet production line with an annual output of more than 100 satellites.
Overall, the latest example of cities getting in line with the NDRC’s addition of satellite internet to their New Infrastructures list. Moving forward, so many cities doing so many things with a relatively limited degree of coordination will likely lead to inefficiency, but it may well also lead to a sprawling and powerful space industrial base. 
4) CNSA publishes further Mars images captured by the Zhurong rover instruments
The photos shared by CNSA include 2 images of Martian rocks and dust synthesized from multiple spectral data obtained by a multispectral camera; 2 landscape images captured by the multispectral camera on July 8 (Sol 50), and a shot by the navigation cameras of a sand dune encountered on June 26th (sol 42). Zhurong has now travelled a distance of 300m+ as of this week, heading south.
5) Expace’s Future Kuaizhou 1B Rocket Passes Design Review
On July 6th, Expace announced that the overall plan design of its Kuaizhou-1B rocket had passed the review stage. Expace, a subsidiary of the Sanjiang Group (itself subordinated to CASIC), had organised a review meeting in Wuhan, inviting experts on launch vehicles in the industry, representatives of relevant satellite users, and representatives of the Sanjiang Group - among other experts.
The Kuaizhou-1B launch vehicle is a new type of rocket based on the Kuaizhou-1A solid-propellant rocket - although not specified in the article, it can be assumed that KZ-1B is a solid-fuelled vehicle, and it was noted as being larger than the KZ-1A. This piece of news follows several months of silence after the launch failure of Kuaizhou-11 in July 2020, as well as of Kuaizhou-1A a few months later in September.
6) AALPT Completes Tests for New Kerolox Engine Test Facility
On July 6th, the 165th Institute of AALPT (China Academy of Propulsion Technology) completed tests of its new kerolox engine test facilities. It is reported that this new infrastructure will greatly improve China’s kerolox engine testing capabilities, “targeting notably 120t thrust engines”. This hints at China’s YF-100 series kerolox engines, which are one of the main workhorses for China’s current Long March 5-8 rockets, and will play a central role in the propulsion of China’s next generation crewed launch vehicle (now dubbed Long March 5DY).
7) Chinese Commercial Launch Company Rocket Group Completes New Round of Funding
Commercial launch startup Rocket Group announced an angel round of funding of some “tens of millions of RMB”. The company is a latecomer to the crowded Chinese commercial launch market, but may have some advantages. Namely, they seem to have made an agreement with JZYJ to buy liquid methalox engines (one less thing to worry about), and are based in Huzhou, a city known to provide support for rocket companies (LandSpace has a massive facility there, which we discussed on the Dongfang Hour Episode 40). The funding round appears to have come completely from “HQ Capital” (弘桥资本).
8) PIESat announced the creation of a South China HQ in Foshan
EO data analytics service provider PIESat announced the creation of a South China headquarters to be located in the Nanhai District of Foshan City, near Guangzhou. It seems to be a pretty big deal, with PIESat expecting to announce ¥500M, and with the company apparently signing some agreements with Foshan City to develop smart city applications utilizing PIESat EO and GNSS data. 
The development is the latest in the trend of commercial companies teaming up with cities/provinces, and is also yet another example of the fast-rising Guangdong space sector. PIESat is one of the few commercial space companies that is publicly traded, having IPOed on the Shanghai STAR Board in 2019. The company continues to hemorrhage money, but is growing very rapidly, with Q1 2021 revenues growing by 317% compared to Q1 2020. 
航天宏图华南总部落户南海 拟投资5亿元
9) Satellite Herd Completes Installation of 4.2m aperture S/X band TT&C ground station in Azerbaijan
Satellite Herd and Azercosmos completed installation of a TT&C station in Azerbaijan. Azercosmos is the national satellite operator of Azerbaijan, with the company operating two shared GEO satellites (Azerspace-1, shared with Malaysian operator MEASAT, and Azerspace-2, shared with American/Luxembourgish operator Intelsat). In general, it’s not easy for a small country to make money on its own GEO comms satellites, and probably, Azercosmos has found this to be the case too. Partnering with Satellite Herd and providing them space for a 4.2m S/X-band antenna is probably a way for Azercosmos to earn some extra money as the national satellite operator, while Satellite Herd gets to expand its TT&C network to yet another country (they reached Argentina back in May 2021). 
驭星速讯 | 中国航天商业服务再传福音——航天驭星阿塞拜疆卫星地面站正式入网服务!另有10余套天线正在陆续发往全球各地
10) CASCI sets up a “Space Post” service to the Chinese Space Station as yet another Taobao space stunt
According to Chinese tech media 36Kr, CASCI (航天文创), CASC’s subsidiary specialized in cultural products and spinoffs, a “Space Post” service on their e-commerce Taobao shop. The purchase of the service includes the delivery of special space-themed paper and envelopes that Chinese customers can use to write messages and post them to a “space post address”. The messages are then scanned, and set up to the Chinese space station on a chip. Some letters will have the chance to be read aloud (potential live) by Chinese taikonauts.
If you’re interested in more about Chinese space culture, be on the lookout for a deep-dive into the topic later this summer!
11) Jiahe Info and tech media 36Kr publish the 2021 Remote Sensing Industry Report
The report, released on July 7th, puts into perspective the development of China’s remote sensing industry in relation to other countries - especially the US. A few points are worth pointing out here.
First, out of the 909 remote sensing satellites in orbit around the world, 181 belong to China - which has 375 operating satellites in total. The report mentions that although China’s commercial space sector is growing, the extremely fast development of the US commercial space market poses a threat both to China’s national security and future economic prospects in space. Interestingly, the report also mentions SpaceX’s model of mass satellite production and implies that it is providing incentives for the building of satellite factories across China.
The article also indicates that, according to statistics by China’s FutureSpace Research Institute, the amount of investment in satellite remote sensing applications in 2018 reached 1.152 billion yuan - ranking first in all industries and surpassing other fields such as rocket manufacturing and satellite communications. This is not consistent with our data, according to which launch companies raised around 2 billion yuan in 2018 - it is important to keep in mind that Jiahe is an information company using satellite remote sensing and is hence not entirely neutral in the matter.
12) GeeSpace receives ISO 26262 ASIL-D
On July 9th, GeeSpace announced that it had received ISO 26262 ASIL-D certification from Bureau Veritas, which is the highest safety standard among automotive functional safety standards.
GeeSpace is a subsidiary of the automobile manufacturer Geely. Through the Omnicloud, “an open platform that utilizes satellite network data to provide support for satellite-based products and services”, GeeSpace plans to make urban traffic management more efficient and to develop autonomous driving. Receiving the ISO 26262 ASIL-D certification is certainly a positive step toward such objectives.
13) Qingdao Airlines and Partners Visit AeroSat Link
Qingdao Airlines Vice President Zhang Fang visited AeroSat Link this week, along with several Qingdao Airlines partners including Feitian and TDLink to discuss the airline’s in-flight connectivity plans. The article provided relatively limited details on the nature of the visit, but the participants themselves were interesting.
To review, Qingdao Airlines is the first Chinese airline to offer IFC on narrowbody aircraft. Feitian is a Chinese IFC integrator, and TDLink is a service provider, with the companies having partnered with Qingdao to install their original IFC equipment. AeroSat Link is the recently-established IFC-focused subsidiary of China Satcom, headed by a former head of ChinaSat broadband service offerings. ChinaSat has plans to launch 3x HTS with a total of 400 Gbps by 2023, which are partially aimed towards IFC, and China AeroNet is working to sell this capacity to airlines. The meeting with Qingdao Airlines, while seemingly early stage, could be a good sign for AeroSat Link’s prospects of selling capacity. 
The meeting between Qingdao Airlines, its connectivity partners and AeroSat Link is in the continuity of the announcement of Qingdao Airlines to extend connectivity services to its entire fleet. Currently, Qingdao Airlines only operates a single connected aircraft (A320 B-8442), with AeroSat Link connectivity.
14) One Year Anniversary of Apstar-6D Launch
APT Mobile Satcom announced the 1-year anniversary of the launch of Apstar-6D. A relatively minor update, but interesting was the reference to the satellite as “ShenzhenSat” (深圳星). As we covered in Dongfang Hour Episode 37, the Shenzhen Municipal Government recently published significant incentives for satellite manufacturers, in particular for projects labeled as “key projects” by the city. Among the key projects announced in 2021 was an “Asia-Pacific Broadband HTS System” (亚太高通量宽带卫星通信系统项目), which is very likely a reference to a satellite (or satellites) from locally-based APT Mobile Satcom. Too early to tell, but it seems likely that the city of Shenzhen and APT Mobile Satcom will deepen their cooperation.
This has been another episode of the Dongfang Hour China Aero/Space News Roundup. If you’ve made it this far, we thank you for your kind attention, and look forward to seeing you next time! Until then, don’t forget to follow us on YouTube, Twitter, or LinkedIn, or your local podcast source.
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