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DFH#23: Ranking of EO capacities by NGA, A++ round of funding by SatHD and more

The Dongfang Hour
The Dongfang Hour
Your Weekly China Space Industry Summary, by Blaine Curcio and Jean Deville, and with editing by Orbital Gateway Consulting Analyst Aurélie Gillet.

What's up in Chinese Space this Week?
Welcome to the DFHour China Space Newsletter for 4-10 Oct 2021. This week, although there is no news episode of our podcast and YouTube Channel, we have released a special issue dedicated to explaining how the Tianhe core module of the Chinese Space Station moves around in orbit. In the meantime, enjoy the newsletter!
The Week in Launch
In a limited week for the sector, launch engine company Jiuzhou Yunjian (JZYJ) published a short debrief of their time at the Zhuhai Air Show. The company had a booth where they exhibited for the first time a 1:1 size model of their Longyun liquid methalox engine. The article noted that from 1-3 October when the exhibit hall was open to the public, JZYJ received a lot of interest in their engine (and booth more generally). While this could be the company being positive about their experience (hard to imagine them saying it was not busy), it is nonetheless a reminder that rocket engines are pretty cool, and so when the public has a chance to go check out rocket engines, they probably will.
JZYJ's Longyun liquid methalox engine, exhibited at the Zhuhai Air Show
JZYJ's Longyun liquid methalox engine, exhibited at the Zhuhai Air Show
The Week in Satellite Applications
Last week, China’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) released an Olympic-themed ranking of the remote sensing capabilities of commercial companies from all over the world conducted earlier this year. The capabilities assessed were divided into 9 categories: panchromatic resolution, electro-optical persistence, shortwave infrared, synthetic-aperture radar (SAR), SAR persistence, mid-wave infrared, video, multispectral imaging and hyperspectral imaging. NGA plans to perform such assessment on a yearly basis.
Both the US and China won the ‘gold medal’ in 3 categories each: while the US won titles of ‘Best pan resolution’, ‘Best shortwave infrared (SWIR)’ and ‘Best SAR resolution’, Chinese companies won titles as ‘Best electro-optical persistence’, ‘Best video’ as well as ‘Best hyperspectral imaging (HSI) (20+ bands)’. As reported in an article by Breaking Defense, Dave Gautier, director of NGA’s Commercial and Business Operations Group, noted that:
“One of the other things that was surprising to us is just how fast China is proliferating their orbiting EO constellations…. Most people were not really paying attention that this had happened.”
Chinese companies are moving fast indeed, and not just in the field of remote sensing!
Ranking of the remote sensing capabilities of commercial companies worldwide by NGA
Ranking of the remote sensing capabilities of commercial companies worldwide by NGA
The Week in Satellite Manufacturing + operation
Commercial TT&C service provider Satellite Herd raised nearly RMB 200M in an “A++ Round” of funding announced on 8 October. The round was led by a consortium of investors including Orient Securities, Peak Valley capital, and Tianhaitang Fund. 
This represents ~2x the size of the series B funding round announced by rival commercial TT&C firm Tianlian TT&C back in June (that round was “over RMB 100M”). The funding is earmarked for overseas ground network expansion, which has already been a major area of focus for Satellite Herd–the company recently (mid 2021) announced partnerships in Azerbaijan and Argentina for ground stations. 
Notably, Satellite Herd has also created a functioning business, with the company routinely announcing their provisioning of services to commercial satellites being launched by Chinese companies. While we do not have a firm number, it is safe to assume that Satellite Herd provides TT&C services to some dozens of satellites, and that they are earning regular recurring revenue from these customers. As discussed on the Dongfang Hour before, this puts Satellite Herd in a rather different position than, say, a launch company, because they are already making money on a business model that has been relatively less capital-intensive than building a rocket. 
The Week in China’s Space Program
A lot of news on China’s space program this week. On October 5, the first stage of the Long March 7, which was used to launch Tianzhou-3, has safely re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere over the Xinjiang region.
As often in China, the end of a rocket’s mission marks the beginning of another. On October 7, a Long March 2F rocket carrying the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft was rolled out of the vertical assembly building of the Jiuquan Launch Center. The rocket will launch the next batch of taikonauts to the Tianhe-1 core module, although the composition of the crew is not known. This represents the last crewed mission of the “Critical Technology Verification” Phase of the Chinese Space Station, which has the objective of testing and validating the systems of Tianhe-1. It will be followed by the Construction Phase in 2022, which will see the Wentian and Mengtian experimental modules assembled with the Tianhe-1. While the exact launch date is not yet known, the 16th of October was mentioned by several Chinese social media posts. Amusingly, certain Chinese space watchers noticed on pictures of the roll-out released by CMSEO a second Long March 2F that serves as a backup in case an emergency rescue mission needs to be organized for the taikonauts in orbit.
Lastly, some news about our two favorite outer space bodies: Mars and the Moon. China’s Mars rover Zhurong powered to safe mode starting in late September following the Mars solar conjunction during which the Earth-Sun-Mars alignment makes communications between the rover and the relevant teams on Earth impossible. According to China’s CLEP, communications with Zhurong will resume in mid-October, slightly earlier than the previously announced date of late October.
The Moon samples collected by Chang'e-5 in 2020, which are the youngest collected to date, are beginning to reveal their secrets. On October 7, Science published a report titled “Age and composition of young basalts on the Moon, measured from samples returned by Chang’e-5”, co-authored by Dr. Xiaochao Che and Pr. Alexander Nemchin (among others). The basaltic samples collected are ~1.96 billion years old, which proves that magmatic activity still existed on the Moon 1.96 billion years ago. No doubt that some exciting scientific discoveries are ahead.
The Long March 2F rocket was rolled out at the Jiuquan Launch Center
The Long March 2F rocket was rolled out at the Jiuquan Launch Center
The Week in Policy & Events
Although there was no new event this week, China Air Show published an article on the positive reaction received by the Zhuhai Air Show abroad - in particular in Paris, France, and Braunschweig, Germany. In the video, Emmanuel Davidson, the editor-in-chief of the French aviation magazine Aviation et Pilote, government officials as well as citizens were invited to give their opinion about the Show. Recurring comments were made about the quality of the event, the modernity of the city itself, as well as the impressive, quick progress of China’s aviation industry.
Other News of the Week
Last piece of news for this week, the Chinese spaceflight website spaceflightfans.cn has resumed operations on Monday October 4, after shutting down approximately two weeks ago - due, according to rumors, to the unauthorised release of sensitive information. The resuming of operations will be gradual, and at first, readers will not be able to write comments. In any case, good to see the website up and running again!
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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