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DFH #19: Satellite Phones, Launch Updates, and a New Format!

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.

Welcome to the New Format!
Welcome to the DFHour China Space Newsletter for 6-12 September 2021. This week, we begin a new format for our newsletter, one that will hopefully allow our readers to more efficiently digest and interpret the week’s news. We will be breaking news up into sections, namely launch, satellite manufacturing + operation, satellite applications, space program, policy & events and other
Rather than listing 12-15 news updates, we hope that breaking them up into ~6 sections will allow for more efficient reading, while providing our readers with all the relevant original sources linked in the text. As always, we welcome feedback and strive for constant improvement, so thoughts are welcome! And as always, you can check out deep-dives on several of this week’s stories on our weekly YouTube video/podcast. Without further ado, the first of the new DFHour Space News(letter).
The Week in Launch
Two launches occurred during the week, with a Long March-4C sending the Gaofen-5-02 EO satellite into 705km SSO, and a Long March-3B sending the ChinaSat-9B communications satellite into GEO orbit. The first mission was led by SAST, while the latter represented a CALT rocket launching a CAST-build DFH-4 satellite. Gaofen-5-02 is planned for environmental monitoring and EO, while ChinaSat-9B is a broadcast satellite planned to be used to transmit 4K and 8K TV signals, including from the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The launches were CASC’s 30th and 31st of 2021, with the company planning for 40 launches during the year. 
Launches that did not occur this week included the maiden launch of the Hapith I rocket, made by Taiwanese launch company TiSpace and planned to be launched from South Australia. The launch, which we discussed in detail in last week’s DFHour, was delayed due to poor weather conditions at the launch site. Finally, this week saw orbit and attitude control tests completed on Galactic Energy’s Ceres-1 rocket. Galactic Energy became the second Chinese commercial launch company to reach orbit (third if counting Expace), when their Ceres-1 was launched in late 2020 carrying the Tianqi-11 satellite. The 2nd Ceres-1 launch is planned for later this year. 
ChinaSat-9B Launch
ChinaSat-9B Launch
The Week in Satellite Applications
The big news this week was rumors about the iPhone 13 being satellite-compatible, and subsequent responses among Chinese netizens. The ruckus kicked off when renowned Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo speculated that the iPhone 13 might support connectivity with LEO satellites. Later in the week, we saw from Bloomberg speculation that the connectivity would probably be limited to short messages for first responders in the context of an emergency, or otherwise for remote 3G/4G/5G connectivity. The news also kicked off some debate on the Chinese internet, with netizens pointing out that there are Chinese phones that are satellite-compatible, most notably the Linyun YT-8000 smartphone, which is not only 5G compatible, but also compatible with China’s Tiantong GEO S-band system. 
Separately, this week we saw China Satcom subsidiary SinoSat install China’s first “smart satellite pole” in Beijing. The pole includes a VSAT, solar panels, and a security camera, and is optimized for ChinaSat’s HTS capacity (implicitly ChinaSat-16, and future Ka-band HTS). 
The Week in Satellite Manufacturing
Geely announced that the company’s Qingdao satellite manufacturing facility will be completed in 2022 in the city’s Shanghe Demonstration Zone. The project involves investment of RMB 4.12B, and includes plans for a broadband satellite constellation headquarters, R&D center, AI data analytics center, etc. It is not clear how the Qingdao facility will relate to GeeSpace’s space headquarters being built in the Nansha District of Guangzhou, in the country’s south.  
The Week in China’s Space Program
This week saw several lunar updates. Amateur radio astronomers reported that the Chang’e-5 orbiter, which was instrumental in delivering a return module with 1.731kg of lunar samples last year, was heading back to the Earth-Moon system. For some context, after having delivered the return module back to Earth on December 16 2020, the Chang’e 5 orbiter extended its space mission by heading towards the Sun-Earth L1 Lagrange point, which it reached on March 15 2021 after an 88-day journey. At the GLEX conference in June 2021, Deputy Chief Designer of spacecraft systems for China’s Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) PENG Jing mentioned that there was little propellant left in the tanks of the CE’5 orbiter, meaning that complex maneuvers would be ruled out for remaining missions.  
Also on the topic of lunar landers was some news from Taiwan this week. Notably, Taiwan’s National Central University (國立中央大學) announced on September 6 that it would cooperate with the Taoyuan municipality to develop a small-sized lunar lander, with the objective of landing in the lunar polar region by 2023. The lander will be based on the IDEASSat cubesat also designed by NCU, and launched on-board a Falcon 9 in January 2022. While NCU is one of Taiwan’s two main space universities, the project nevertheless represents a significant challenge as Taiwanese missions so far have only been in LEO/SSO. Although not explicitly mentioned, this news is likely a follow-up of the partnership signed between NCU and Taiwanese space company HeliosX Cosmos in June 2021, over the development of a scientific payload for an “international lunar mission in 2023”.
Note: IDEASSat in Chinese is 飛鼠號, not to be mixed up with the similar sounding Hapith I and Hapith V rockets (飛鼠一號, 飛鼠五號) of Taiwanese commercial rocket company TiSPACE.
The Week in Policy & Events
At a national level, we saw the State Council announce the “Overall Plan for the Construction of the Hengqin Guangdong-Macao Deepening Cooperation Zone”. The announcement did not include direct references to satellite/space, did include a next-generation internet cluster, with this sometimes referring to satellite internet. As covered in Dongfang Hour Episode 47, several cities in Guangdong have added satellite internet to their 14th Five-Year Plans.  
Straddling provincial and national government was an excellent summary article on Satellite World (卫星界) that outlined major policies related to space. The article highlighted policies in a full 15 provinces, as well as several national-level policies. At the national level, the main goals of the 14th FYP are to improve key technologies such as EO, satcom, remote sensing and satellite navigation technologies, and develop applications in the domains of environmental protection, communications, urban management etc. Great emphasis is put on the Beidou program. For details on provincial-level policies, see the map below. Recommended read with a lot of granularity. This week also saw Jiangsu Province also passed a 2021-2023 development plan for space and aerospace industries, with the plan originally having been proposed in April.   
Select Provincial Space Policies
Select Provincial Space Policies
Finally, on August 31st, China held in Beijing the kick-off meeting for the country’s participation in the SKA project. The SKA (Square Kilometer Telescope) is an intergovernmental synthetic aperture radio telescope project working as a radio interferometer (separate radio antennas that work together as a single telescope to provide higher resolution images). The various ground stations are planned to be built in South Africa and Australia. China ratified the SKAO (SKA Observatory) Convention in June 2021, making it a full-fledged member of the project. While the various SKA arrays of antennas will be in Australia and South Africa, China has been contributing through the design and manufacturing of radio telescope dishes and the construction of a data center for SKA in China (named SKA Regional Center or SRC). 
Other News of the Week
We saw rumors of a Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) planned to be unveiled during the 2021 Zhuhai Airshow, taking place between September 28 and October 3. The main contractor for China’s MEV will be the Shanghai Academy of Space Technology (SAST), one of the main state-owned players involved in both launch vehicles and satellite manufacturing. The MEV would be a second of a kind, with another such vehicle being the notorious MEV-1 and MEV-2 by Northrop Grumman.
The municipality of Wenchang and its space cluster (aka Wenchang International Space City) signed a strategic collaboration agreement with one of China’s largest state-owned construction companies, China Gezhouba Group (中国葛洲坝集团股份有限公司), hinting once again at the ambitious plans that Hainan has for its space activities. The southernmost Chinese province had published earlier this year an ambitious provincial 14th Five-Year Plan where the space industry was described as a priority “future industry” (see DFH Newsletter #11).
This has been another episode of the Dongfang Hour China Aero/Space News(letter). 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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