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!