View profile

DFH#18: Taiwanese launch company TiSpace, China's Martian Helicopter, 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 Analyst Aurélie Gillet.

What's up in Chinese Space this Week?
In this week’s Newsletter Issue #18 covering 30 August - 5 September 2021, we discuss the following:
  1. A Commercial Launch Company from Taiwan?
  2. China may be developing an indigenous version of Ingenuity
  3. Article on Li Shufu and Geely
  4. New panoramic image of Mars by Zhurong
  5. Apstar-6D Satellite Speed Test
  6. Space Transportation Tianxing-II Test Flight
  7. Turbulent US-China relations: a follow-up
  8. Ditel Outfits Yangtze River Administration Ships with Satcom
  9. Breathtaking photos shot by taikonaut Tang Hongbo
  10. Shandong Rocket and Haiyang City Complete Feasibility Study
  11. Round of funding for Huanyu Aerospace (上海寰宇航天)
  12. New presentation by Long Lehao on lunar rockets
  13. Interview of Zhang Kejian by Bauhinia Magazine (HK)
  14. iSpace completes landing legs deployment tests
1) A Commercial Launch Company from Taiwan?
TiSpace (Taiwan Innovative Space - 台灣晉陞太空股份有限公司), a commercial rocket company from Taiwan founded in May 2016, recently received the authorization from Australian authorities to conduct a suborbital launch of the Hapith I rocket from the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex in southern Australia, after having postponed it several times since 2019.
One interesting thing about Tispace is that they are using hybrid propulsion - i.e. a liquid oxidizer and a solid fuel. While hybrid propulsion engines have existed and been explored at an R&D level for a while, it has been seldom used on actual commercial launch vehicles.
Overall, it’s very exciting to see some commercial space activity build up in Taiwan. Although a relatively new player in the space sector, it is also the world leader in semiconductor manufacturing - hosting TSMC, one of the world’s most valuable companies.
TiSpace's Hapith I
TiSpace's Hapith I
2) China may be developing an indigenous version of Ingenuity
China’s National Space Sciences Center (NSSC) revealed earlier this week that on August 20, 3 projects passed an acceptance test review, among which was one project that could be roughly translated into “Mars surface patroller & remote sensing key technology study” (火星地表巡飞光谱探测关键技术研究). The latter project includes a Mars UAV prototype as well as its remote sensing payload.
The UAV seems to have gone for a similar lift generating mechanism as NASA’s Ingenuity, namely 2 contra-rotating rotors. This technical solution makes sense and is especially fitting for Mars due to its very thin atmosphere (5% of the atm on Earth). We’ll be on the lookout for further news on what seems to be China’s version of Ingenuity!
3) Article on Li Shufu and Geely
This week, Reuters published an excellent deep-dive on Li Shufu, Chairman of Zhejiang Geely Holdings Group. Li and Geely are arguably the closest thing that China has to Elon Musk and Tesla. 
Geely is a leading Chinese automaker that owns, among others, Volvo, Lotus, and a large stake in Daimler. In recent years, Chairman Li has been pushing to develop autonomous cars enabled by, among other things, LEO satellites that provide enhanced location accuracy and low-latency communications. The company’s space efforts are concentrated in Guangzhou under subsidiaries such as Shikong Tansuo (时空探索, which we discussed in more detail on the Dongfang Hour Episode 27) and GeeSpace (时空道宇). Geely also acquired China’s first commercial satellite manufacturer, Space-OK.
By the end of this year, Geely may be launching the GeeSat-1A and GeeSat-1B satellites on-board a Kuaizhou 1A rocket. The two satellites will contribute to the growing LEO constellation being built by GeeSpace.
4) New panoramic image of Mars by Zhurong
On August 30, the CNSA and the People’s Bank of China jointly held a ceremony to celebrate Zhurong’s 100th day on Mars, for which a series of gold and silver commemorative coins was issued. A new panoramic picture of Mars was also included in the article reporting the event, as well as a video retracing Zhurong’s journey on the red planet.
Panoramic image of Mars taken by the Zhurong rover
Panoramic image of Mars taken by the Zhurong rover
5) Apstar-6D Satellite Speed Test
APT Mobile Satcom Shenzhen announced testing of its newish Apstar-6D Ku-band high-throughput satellite. The “speed test” involved a 1-meter portable terminal with a forward rate of 280 Mbps and a return rate of 195 Mbps, with the company noting that this was the highest return rate ever achieved in the domestic satellite industry. 
The article noteworthily referred to the satellite as “ShenzhenSat” (深圳星), a reference to the company’s connection to Shenzhen City. The city has included a future “mobile broadband High-Throughput Satellite” on its list of key development projects for 2021.
Apstar-6D Coverage, courtesy of APT Mobile Satcom
Apstar-6D Coverage, courtesy of APT Mobile Satcom
6) Space Transportation Tianxing-II Test Flight
Space Transportation reported on 31 August that the company had completed the first flight of its Tianxing-II hypersonic space plane, with this being the third flight overall (with two Tianxing-I flights previously). As covered on the DFHour a few weeks ago, Space Transportation recently raised a new round of funding, and outlined their future expansion plans, which include hypersonic planes, orbital rockets, space tourism, and point-to-point transportation. 
7) Turbulent US-China relations: a follow-up
Really interesting headline here: “What if Starlink gets put into Military use?” The article provides a deep-dive on the potential military applications for the various broadband constellations being deployed today, while also implying that China needs to accelerate its own LEO efforts, if for no other reason than to keep pace with the potential threat represented by US-led LEOs.
8) Ditel Outfits Yangtze River Administration Ships with Satcom
Maritime satcom service provider Ningbo Ditel announced on 31 August that they had outfitted 8 ships from the Yangtze River Estuary Management Bureau with Ditel’s V81 Ku-band maritime terminal. The article spoke with crew members who had tested the service, who mentioned faster internet speeds and better coverage of all areas of the ships.
9) Breathtaking photos shot by taikonaut Tang Hongbo
On August 31, the China Manned Space Engineering Office released breathtaking photos shot by taikonaut Tang Hongbo from the space station, with stunning views of the solar arrays, the Earth, and the station windows. Below is a picture of the North African continent. Check out the article to see more pictures!
Photo of North Africa taken by Tang Hongbo
Photo of North Africa taken by Tang Hongbo
10) Shandong Rocket and Haiyang City Complete Feasibility Study
Shandong Rocket met with officials in Haiyang City to discuss the second phase of the company’s rocket industrial base. A subsidiary of China Rocket, Shandong Rocket plans to have a capacity of 10 solid launch vehicles per year in a facility of 10,433 sq meters. We note that despite being a small latecomer in the crowded commercial launch sector, Shandong Rocket is at a significant advantage due to their connection to China Rocket, and by extension, CASC.
11) Round of funding for Huanyu Aerospace (上海寰宇航天)
This week, 上海寰宇航天, also known as “Space Universe”, announced a “tens of millions of RMB funding round” from Beijing JHF. Little information is known about the company, but they appear to be yet another subsystems-level launch company. The company apparently signed an agreement with Xintai City, Shandong Province, in October of last year to help develop the city’s space sector. May 2021 saw the company open an “open rocket development facility”, also in Xintai.
12) New presentation by Long Lehao on lunar rockets
In a recent space education short video (20 minutes) featuring Long March rockets chief designer Long Lehao, the latter discussed the development of China’s launch vehicles over the past decades, as well as China’s plans for the future. There was no real scoop during the presentation, other than the fact that the Long March 5DY (also called the 921 rocket) was clearly put forward as China’s preferred rocket for the first crewed lunar missions, hinting again at the fact that the Long March 9 will no longer have the opening role for crew lunar exploration. Long Lehao also alluded to other on-going propulsion research, including nuclear-powered thermal rockets, solar sails, and combined cycle engines.
13) Interview of Zhang Kejian by Bauhinia Magazine (HK)
CNSA Director Zhang Kejian was interviewed by Bauhinia Magazine, a Hong Kong publication, earlier this week. During the interview, Zhang emphasized the importance of developing new applications to utilize existing in-orbit infrastructure, with particular focus on satellite internet, satellite navigation, and other applications that can support broader economic development.
14) iSpace completes landing legs deployment tests
On September 3, Chinese commercial launch startup iSpace (a.k.a Interstellar Glory) completed landing legs ground verification tests of the upcoming Hyperbola-2 reusable rocket which performs vertical landing. The landing legs are key mechanisms that must ensure stability, absorb the impact, and withstand harsh thermal conditions.
The tests simulated the aerodynamic drag encountered during vertical landing, examined the unlocking and deployment mechanisms, and enabled the engineering teams to obtain a large amount of test data.
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.
Did you enjoy this issue? Yes No
The Dongfang Hour
The Dongfang Hour @DongFangHour

Your Weekly China Space Industry Summary, with a touch of eccentricity and some attempts at humor.

If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Created with Revue by Twitter.