DFH #44: China's Two Sessions 🇨🇳 🎤 Space Theme Parks 🧑🏻‍🚀🎢 and Hall-Effect Thrusters 🛰️

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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 Dongfang Hour China Space Newsletter for 28 Feb - 6 March 2022. This week, we break down the beginning of China’s Two Sessions, provide some more updates on 3D printed rockets, and bring attention to a new company developing Hall-Effect thrusters.
Highlight of the Week: China’s Two Sessions
CALT Chief Engineer Jiang Jie speaks during a press conference during the Two Sessions
CALT Chief Engineer Jiang Jie speaks during a press conference during the Two Sessions
This week saw the Two Sessions (两会) kick off in Beijing. The Two Sessions are major political events, namely the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (人民政协), and the National People’s Congress (全国人民代表大会), and are held every year in Beijing (as well as at provincial and city levels). In recent years, as space has become a higher political priority in China, the space sector has been increasingly vocal during the Two Sessions. While in the early stages of this year’s sessions, there are already a few interesting takeaways worth digging into.
First, we saw an interview with Jiang Jie, Chief Engineer of CALT. The highlights of the interview were updates on China’s crewed space and super heavy-lift rocket ambitions, with Jiang noting that the Long March-9 will require another 8-10 years before being ready for launch, while also confirming that China aims for a crewed lunar mission before 2030, with future crewed launch vehicles “currently in the stage of key technology research”. When taken together, we can assume that a crewed lunar launch will be on a Long March-5DY.
During the interview, Jiang also discussed the strong potential of Chinese commercial launch, while noting that the maiden launch of the Jielong-3 would be moved to September 2022 (originally scheduled for August). She reiterated plans for 2-3 Jielong-3 launches in 2022, and 5+ per year in the following years, indicating a lot of launch capacity given that the Jielong-3 will be China’s largest and most powerful solid-fueled rocket. She also called for 4-5 launches of the LM-11 this year, of which 1-2 will be commercial launches, the latest indication that China’s traditional space players are recognizing the commercial side of the sector as an important source of demand.
The sessions also saw an interview with Chief Designer of the Shenzhou program, Zhou Jianping. While no new details emerged, Zhou provided a recap of China’s crewed space activities, highlighted the fact that China will have 6 taikonauts in orbit simultaneously later this year, namely the Shenzhou-14 and -15 crews. Zhou reminded the audience that upon completion, the Chinese Space Station would have a mass of nearly 100 tons, quite an accomplishment.
Finally, some news regarding things not said at the Two Sessions. As he has done for the past several years, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun released some ideas and thoughts for the Two Sessions. In each of the past 2 years, Lei highlighted satellite internet and commercial space as areas where the government should focus its efforts. This year, there was no mention of space or satellites, with Lei instead focusing on new energy vehicles, electronic waste recycling, and corporate philanthropy. This could be an indication that Lei got what he wanted, in that the Chinese government has significantly increased its support for commercial space, or, perhaps less likely, an indication that the topic is now more sensitive than before. As a reminder, Lei Jun’s Shunwei Capital is a major investor in, among others, Galaxy Space, iSpace, and Qiansheng Exploration. At any rate, it will be an interesting Two Sessions ahead, we will keep you updated!
The Week in Launch
Leading off, and actually coming from last week and an anonymous Dongfang Hour fan, China launched a new SAR satellite on a LM-4C. The LSAR-01B satellite was the second in a duo to be launched, with its predecessor launching in January of this year. The launch occurred just 2 hours and 22 minutes before the launch of a Long March-8 with 22 satellites, representing the shortest time between launches in Chinese space sector history. The LSAR-01B was developed by the CASC 8th Academy, and will work in tandem with its fellow satellite, the LSAR-01A.
We also witnessed two rideshare launches. The first, which we covered in detail last week, was of a LM-8. This week we saw some updates on payloads, which included 10x satellites for CGSTL, 4x Hainan satellites manufactured by MinoSpace and Shenzhen Dongfanghong, and 8 single satellites each for different customers.
Separately, on Saturday 5 March, a LM-2D launched with 7x satellites, including the 6-satellite “small spider web” LEO constellation (小蜘蛛网) from Galaxy Space, and 1x cubesat. In a separate piece published by Galaxy Space, the company noted that the 6x satellites each have a mass of 190kg, and a throughput of 40 Gbps. 
The cubesat was the Xuanming Xingyuan EO test satellite, which was notably deployed by a satellite dispenser built by commercial company COSATS.
22 satellites being loaded onto a LM-8
22 satellites being loaded onto a LM-8
In other launch news, an interview with Min Changning, the chief engineer of recently-founded commercial launch company Rocket Pi, was published. In the interview, Min gave some insights on why Rocket Pi is bullish on its space biology vertical:
“In terms of demand, the global market size of biopharmaceuticals is expected to reach US$326 billion in 2022, and there is such a large amount in the narrow segment of biological experiments and biopharmaceuticals; 70% of the test projects on the International Space Station are Biological and biopharmaceutical testing .”
Min provided a timeline for Rocket Pi’s ambitions, which includes:
  • 3 biology-experiment satellites launched in 2022
  • Within the next 3 years: launch of their space biology spacecraft, and ability to scale the launch of satellites (for biology experiments)
  • Within 5-7 years: reusable spacecraft, + reach a “significant” development in terms of space biology and space pharmaceuticals
Finally, this week saw Deep Blue Aerospace, one of China’s leading commercial launch firms, publish an article on their use of 3D printing in the Leiting-5 and Leiting-20 rocket engines. According to the article, the company currently outsources 3D printing to 2-3 Chinese suppliers. Moving forward, they have plans to build their own 3D printing capabilities (“additive manufacturing + intelligent manufacturing production base in Nantong”). The article provides additional details on which parts are 3D printed, which metal alloys are used, and percentage thereof. As a reminder, earlier this year we dove into another Chinese commercial launch company with 3D printing aspirations, Space Tai (太瀚航天). 
Orbital Gateway Consulting Insights Interlude
This week saw an IPO announcement from earth observation company CGSTL, discussed in more detail below. Over the past 8 years, we have seen more than ¥32 billion invested into Chinese commercial space companies across several hundred funding rounds. During this time, we have maintained a complete database of commercial space industry funding by company, vertical, and source of financing, available to our clients.
For more info on OGC’s research into Chinese commercial space funding, reach out to info@orbitalgatewayconsulting.com
Now back to the news!
The Week in China’s Space Program
In a very brief press release from the China Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP), the program announced that the 4th batch of lunar samples from the Chang’e-5 mission would be open to new applicants on their website, www.clep.org.cn. As we covered on Dongfang Hour last summer (below), CLEP has been giving samples to a select group of universities and institutions, albeit with a very open application process. As a reminder, the Chang’e-5 mission brought back 1,731 grams of Lunar samples last year
China Launches a Suborbital Spaceplane, Tencent Begins Space Program, CE5 Lunar Samples Handed Out
The Week in Satellite Manufacturing + operation
We learned that one of the satellites launched on this week’s 22-satellite rideshare launch featured Hall-Effect/”thermal electric” thrusters (电热微推进产品) developed by Chinese commercial space startup Yidong Aerospace (易动宇航). This is but the latest company developing the technology, this following the emergence of Space Engine (星空动力) in late 2021. As covered on the Dongfang Hour earlier this year, we have recently seen an increasing number of subsystems-level companies specializing in specific technologies such as laser inter-satellite links. 
On the ground segment side of the sector, one of China’s leading commercial TT&C companies, Tianlian TT&C, held a signing ceremony in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, for what would be China’s largest commercial ground station. Total investment for the project will reach ¥110 million, or around US$17.5M. The signing ceremony included discussion of the usual suspects, including providing TT&C services to the plethora of commercial satellite manufacturers that are launching satellites into orbit, but also saw mention of more intriguing topics such as astronomical observatories and space agriculture.
The Week in Satellite Applications
Chinese commercial remote sensing company PIESat announced a cooperation agreement with Hikvision, a leading manufacturer of video surveillance and IoT products. The agreement calls for regular meetings between Hikvision and PIESat to develop new applications using PIESat’s satellites. Hikvision is a behemoth, with revenues of >US$10B per year, and a market cap of RMB 400B (US$65B). For an interesting piece on what could arguably be called the darker side of Hikvision, we recommend Jonathan Hillman’s piece from last year in The Atlantic. 
Galaxy Space took another step into the EO sphere, signing a strategic cooperation agreement with China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment for remote sensing R&D and applications. In a ceremony attended by Galaxy Space CEO Xu Ming and the Director of the Satellite Environment Application Center of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment Gao Jixi, we saw indications that Galaxy Space is pivoting further from its plans of being a primarily satellite communications-focused company. This follows agreements between Galaxy Space and PIESat in 2021 for construction of payloads for EO satellites, and signals another step away from the company’s original plans of a 10,000-satellite LEO broadband constellation, which now seems almost certain to be dead.
Photo of Würzburg, Germany, from MinoSpace's Taijing-3-01
Photo of Würzburg, Germany, from MinoSpace's Taijing-3-01
Following the LM-8 launch from early in the week, several companies posted first images from remote sensing satellites that were put into orbit on the mission. In addition to MinoSpace posting photos from the Taijing satellites (Würzburg, Germany shown above), we saw ADASpace post some stunning videos from the wide-angle lens camera on the Xingshidai-17 satellite, and Spacety publish some photos from the Chaohu-1 satellite.
Finally, the Natural Resources Department of Central China’s Hunan Province released a 3-year BeiDou development plan this week, covering the period of 2022-2024. According to the plan, Hunan will develop, among other things, improved location-based services used in a variety of industries, including natural resources and disaster recovery. 
Other News of the Week
This week saw two stories about Chinese space-themed amusement parks being developed, in an indication of the growing popularity of space among the country’s population. First, a project called “Beautiful Planet” (美丽星球) announced a round of “tens of millions of RMB” of funding, with plans to build a series of major space-themed theme parks over the coming years. The company plans to eventually invest upwards of ¥350M into these projects, which will include 5 “flagship parks” in Beijing, Anhui, Wuhan, Guangdong, and Zhejiang. 
Second, a Rocket Sciences Education Park begin construction in Laogang Town of the Pudong New District of Shanghai. The project will involve a total investment of ¥550M, and will include local space giant SAST as a collaborator. The theme park is being built on the site from which China launched its first ever sounding rocket, the T-7M, which was launched in the early 1960s. 
On the financial side of the sector, China’s leading commercial remote sensing company CGSTL announced plans for an IPO on the New Third Board (新三板), with their IPO advisor being Haitong Securities. The timing and offer size were not specified, however this follows a late 2020 “pre-IPO” funding round of ¥2.46B, or around US$375M. While speculation, it would be reasonable to expect the IPO offering to be more than that amount, and most likely, for the company’s valuation to exceed US$1B. 
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