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DFH#16: Growth of Chinese commercial launch workforce, 2nd Shenzhou 12 spacewalk, Spacety's European collaborations, and 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 #16 covering 16 - 22 August 2021, we discuss the following:
  1. The growth of Chinese launch companies measured in 2019-2020 workforce increase
  2. Spacety and T4i Announce Collaboration
  3. The second spacewalk (EVA) of the Shenzhou-12 crew
  4. Commercial satellite manufacturer Minospace raises 300 million RMB in Pre-B round of funding
  5. LM-7 to launch Tianzhou-3 Arrives in Wenchang
  6. Launch of a pair of Tianhui 2 - 02 satellites
  7. China’s Mars rover Zhurong “completes” its 90-day mission on Mars
  8. Spacety announces the success of the Beihangsat-1 ADSB satellite in-orbit verification tests
  9. Updates from the Wuhan National Aerospace Industrial Base
  10. Yuanwang-6 Sets Sail for TT&C Voyage
  11. Qingdao Jiaodong Airport Opens for Commercial Flights, First flight has IFC
  12. Guangzhou Haige Reports H1 2021 Financials
  13. Kuaizhou-1A Return to Launch
  14. Agreement for remote sensing satellite data sharing signed between BRICS countries
1) The growth of Chinese launch companies measured in 2019-2020 workforce increase
Recently, some netizens on the Chinese internet compiled data of annual business reports of commercial launch companies in 2019 and 2020, and published an interesting table measuring growth in terms of the companies’ workforce (which was translated into English by the owner of the Twitter account Ace of Razgriz, special thanks to him).
Table measuring growth of selected Chinese launch companies' workforce (translation by Ace of Razgriz)
Table measuring growth of selected Chinese launch companies' workforce (translation by Ace of Razgriz)
Here are the main takeaways, in a nutshell:
  • The top-tier rocket companies have all, on average, more than doubled in size in terms of workforce (average growth = +225%) (iSpace, Landspace, Galactic Energy).
  • OneSpace has made an unexpected come-back, when the company was said to be in dire straits after the failure of their OS-M orbital launch in 2019. Restructuration and diversification of its business seem to have paid off.
  • 2nd or 3rd generation companies, such as CAS Space, Deep Blue Aerospace, Space Pioneer (aka Tianbing Aerospace), undergo a promising growth.
  • Rocket engine companies going strong: S Motor, AA Engine, Aerospace Propulsion, JZYJ.
Check out this week’s DFH episode for more detailed analysis!
Workforce & Growth of Chinese Launch Companies, Shenzhou 12 Crew 2nd Spacewalk, Updates from Spacety
2) Spacety and T4i Announce Collaboration
Chinese commercial satellite manufacturer and constellation operator Spacety announced, via its subsidiary Spacety Luxembourg, a collaboration with Italian satellite component manufacturer Technology for Propulsion and Innovation (T4i). The latter develops, among other things, propulsion systems for smallsats to “make your satellite dance in space”.
Thanks to a high frequency of satellite launches, Spacety is able to offer a “Satellite as a Service” business model which allows for “In-Orbit Demonstration/Verification (IOD/IOV)” at a competitive price. Although T4i is the one sending a product to Spacety, it appears that T4i is the customer, and Spacety the supplier. Moving forward, this is going to be a business model to watch from Chinese commercial space companies.
3) The second spacewalk (EVA) of the Shenzhou-12 crew
In the early morning of Friday August 20, China’s Shenzhou-12 crew composed of Nie Haisheng, Tang Hongbo, and Liu Boming performed their second EVA, which lasted over 6 hours. As opposed to the first EVA in June, which was was performed by Tang and Liu, this time it was Nie and Liu, who left the multidocking node to work in the vacuum of space.
For this second EVA, the main objectives were to install an external pump module for the space station’s thermal control system, and to raise the panoramic camera – a task that had already been performed once during the previous EVA. The Shenzhou-12 mission was planned to last 3 months, and will return to Earth in mid-September.
Nie Haisheng waving during 2nd Shenzhou-12 EVA
Nie Haisheng waving during 2nd Shenzhou-12 EVA
4) Commercial satellite manufacturer Minospace raises 300 million RMB in Pre-B round of funding
Chinese commercial satellite manufacturer Minospace (微纳星空) completed a Pre-B round of funding on 19 August, with lead investors being Power Capital (高能资本), Gopher Asset Management (歌斐资产), and Lightspeed China Partners (光速中国).
This round of funding amounted to 300M RMB, a significant step up from the already impressive rounds of 2020 (100M RMB A2 round in March 2020, “tens of millions” A3 round in April 2020). The new inflow of cash will be aimed at the development of Minospace’s 500 kg satellite bus, the company’s largest platform to date. 
Going for the more lucrative and less crowded smallsat market (200 kg+ platforms) has been a trend in recent years in China, with competitors such as Spacety and Commsat also developing heavier platforms.
5) LM-7 to launch Tianzhou-3 Arrives in Wenchang
The Long March-7 that will launch the Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft arrived safely in Wenchang this week, having been shipped by boat from Tianjin. The launch is expected for next month, and the supplies will be delivered to the Tianhe core module in preparation for the upcoming Shenzhou-13 launch, expected in October.
6) Launch of a pair of Tianhui 2 - 02 satellites
On Thursday 19 August, we saw a Long March-4B launch a pair of Tianhui-2 02 satellites from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Both the satellites and the rocket were developed by Shanghai-based SAST, also known as the 8th Academy of CASC. The EO satellites will be used for geographic surveying, and the launch was the 9th Long March-4B launch of 2021.
7) China’s Mars rover Zhurong “completes” its 90-day mission on Mars
China’s Zhurong rover’s initial mission was 90 Martian days (approx. 92 Earth days), a milestone reached on August 15 2021. During this period, Zhurong drove 889 meters and gathered 10 GB of raw data. To date, all 6 instruments on-board are functional and in good shape. During this period, the Tianwen-1 mission’s orbiter served as a communication relay with the Earth, and was in a “communications relay orbit”.
Map of Zhurong's southward journey from the rover's landing site (starred)
Map of Zhurong's southward journey from the rover's landing site (starred)
Some changes will occur in the following weeks:
  • From mid-September to late October 2021, Mars and the Earth will be in conjunction (meaning their positions will be aligned with the sun in-between them). This will disrupt Zhurong’s communications with the Earth for about 50 days, a period during which Zhurong will power down to safe mode.
  • The Tianwen-1 orbiter will move to an “remote sensing orbit” (遥感使命轨道), moving from the initial 265 × 15 000 km orbit to 265 x 12 000 km, in both cases with an inclination of 86.9°. The orbiter will make full use of its 7 instruments during this new phase, but will continue to serve as a data relay for the Zhurong rover.
8) Spacety announces the success of the Beihangsat-1 ADSB satellite in-orbit verification tests
Spacety’s Beihangsat-1 ADS-B satellite launched in Nov 2020 on a Long March 6, was reported to have completed its in-orbit verification tests this week. The 12U satellite was designed in collaboration with Sichuan Jiuzhou Air Traffic Control Technology (四川九洲空管科技有限责任公司), and the experiment was led by the National ATC New Navigation System Technology Key Laboratory (国家空管新航行系统技术重点实验室).
Space-based ADSB is a major enabler to know where an aircraft is at all times (including over the ocean and remote areas). Aircraft continuously broadcast ADS-B signals, which are then collected by ground stations (or satellites).
Beihangsat-1 ADS-B satellite
Beihangsat-1 ADS-B satellite
9) Updates from the Wuhan National Aerospace Industrial Base
This week, the third main industrial park at the Wuhan National Aerospace Industrial Base neared completion. The “electromagnetic protection material” industrial park plans to have 7 production lines spread across 35,000 sq meters of factory space, aiming to manufacture a variety of materials to protect in-space assets from electromagnetic forces. As a reminder, the Wuhan base is being developed by CASIC, and also includes a rocket industrial base (primarily Expace), and a satellite manufacturing industrial base.
10) Yuanwang-6 Sets Sail for TT&C Voyage
On August 17, China’s Yuanwang-6 ship set sail for a 70-day voyage to provide TT&C services for various launches taking place during that window. The journey will take the ship 16,000 nautical miles in total, with most of this time spent in the Indian Ocean. The article also mentions that because of Covid-19, there are stricter protocols for crew members to come on/off the ship, and as a result, more than 60% of the ship’s crew members have been onboard for more than 100 consecutive days. 
Yuanwang-6 rendering
Yuanwang-6 rendering
11) Qingdao Jiaodong Airport Opens for Commercial Flights, First flight has IFC
The new Qingdao Jiaodong Airport opened for commercial flights on 12 August, with the first flight being a Qingdao Airlines flight that provided in-flight connectivity (IFC) using ChinaSat-16 Ka-band capacity, while interestingly broadcasting celebrations from inside the airplane live to the outside world.
The airline has been a pioneer in in-flight connectivity in China, having begun trialling the service in mid-2020. The event is likely to increase visibility within China for in-flight connectivity, a still very nascent industry. For more info on the Chinese IFC market, check out last week’s DFHour Part 1, where we discuss China Eastern and Cathay Pacific’s recent developments.
12) Guangzhou Haige Reports H1 2021 Financials
Guangzhou Haige Communications (广州海格通信) reported H1 2021 financials this week, with revenues up 16% and profits 28% compared to H1 2020, to RMB 2.4B and RMB 275M, respectively.
Haige is a communications equipment company with a focus on maritime and gov/mil applications, and on satnav and communications technology. The company has increased investment into R&D, in particular AI/autonomous vehicles (drones and industrial vehicles primarily), and also into the “integration of comms and satnav” (通导一体化).
As a biggish company (market cap of RMB 22B), they have some heft in terms of ability to pour money into such ventures. Full report available in Chinese here
13) Kuaizhou-1A to Return to Launch
Expace announced that the company’s Kuaizhou-1A rocket will return to launch, with two launches planned in September 2021. The rocket–one of China’s most successful early commercial rockets, had made 9 consecutive launches before suffering its first failure in September 2020. The return to flight may help to reduce some of the launch bottleneck for China’s aspiring commercial constellation operators, and will be a boost for commercial launch more generally.
Kuaizhou rocket return-to-flight announcement ceremony
Kuaizhou rocket return-to-flight announcement ceremony
14) Agreement for remote sensing satellite data sharing signed between BRICS countries
On August 18, heads of BRICS space agencies signed an agreement for remote sensing satellite data sharing. Initiated by the CNSA in 2015, the virtual constellation will be composed of remote sensing satellite of BRICS countries, including China’s Gaofen-6 satellite and Ziyuan-3 02 satellite, China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite 4 (CBERS-4) jointly developed by China and Brazil, Russia’s Kanopus-V type, as well as India’s Resourcesat-2 and -2A satellite. Data will be available from ground stations in Sanya (China), Cuiaba (Brazil), the Moscow Region (Russia), Hartebeesthoek (South Africa) as well as Shadnagar–Hyderabad (India).
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 YouTubeTwitterInstagram or LinkedIn, or your local podcast source.
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