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DFH #45: The Two Sessions, Part Deux 🇨🇳 Impact of Russian-Ukraine War on Chinese Space Sector 🇺🇦 🇷🇺 Engine Test from Galactic Energy 🚀

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 7-13 March 2022. This week, we bring more news fromChina’s Two Sessions, unpack Daxing District’s subsidies for iSpace, bring news of a couple of new constellation announcements, and a whole lot more!
Highlight of the Week: China’s Two Sessions Continues
Zhou Jianping Taking Questions on the Sidelines of the CPPCC
Zhou Jianping Taking Questions on the Sidelines of the CPPCC
This week saw a continuation of the Two Sessions in Beijing, with several more space-related updates. Due to the number of updates, we have put one or two in their corresponding sections below, in addition to the updates in the highlight of the week.
First, Zhou Jianping, Chief Designer of China’s Manned Space Program, said he looks forward to welcoming foreign astronauts onto the country’s space station after it is completed and operating stably. 2022 is a major year for the space station, with two large lab modules (Wentian and Mengtian) planned for launch in Q2 and Q3, in addition to two more crewed launches (Shenzhou-14 and -15). 
Zhou noted that after completion of the space station, future crews will be more focused on science and technology research, and will include crew members that are flight engineers, payload specialists, and others who are more specialized in a specific field, rather than generalist taikonauts. 
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Zhou said that the Chinese Space Station would be open to commercial activity, noting that 
When our space station is completed and running, we will actively encourage the private sector to engage in China’s manned space program in various ways. There are many possibilities. We hope there will be competitive, cost-efficient commercial space players to participate in areas including space application and space resource development”. 
Zhou also reiterated some concepts that appeared in the recently-published China 2021 Space White Paper about the importance of commercial space in developing China’s space program, and the increasing importance of the space sector to the broader economy. 
Next, China’s first astronaut Yang Liwei also mentioned that it wasn’t impossible that ordinary civilians visited the Chinese Space Station during the 14th FYP period (2021-2025), due to the strong development of commercial space, a pretty incredible statement considering how recently there was no such thing as commercial space in China.
Zhang Xingying, deputy director of the National Satellite Meteorological Center, submitted a proposal named “On Promoting China’s Commercial Aerospace Orderly and Rapid Development”, which called for the clarification of the roles played by commercial companies vs SoEs. While acknowledging China’s growing commercial space ecosystem, Zhang called it “to some extent small, scattered, chaotic, short-term”. Clarification in the division of labor would “enable China to see its own SpaceX emerge”.
Wu Weiren, Chief Designer of China Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP), was interviewed on the topic of space governance. During the interview, Wu noted that with the increasing number of satellites being launched, there is a need for an international organization for coordination of orbits and frequencies. During the National People’s Congress, Wu submitted a proposal concerning the modernization of space governance, emphasizing the need for multilateral, international solutions. 
On a somewhat related note, Yang Mengfei from CAST was interviewed by the Central Radio Station, during which time he spoke about the importance of protecting China’s in-space assets. 
During the interview, Yang referred to the increasing number of satellites being launched, and specifically to the two near-misses in 2021 of the Chinese Space Station by Starlink satellites. Yang noted that China would launch >400 satellites in 2022, and called for proactively promoting the formulation of “space asset protection policies”. 
VP of CAST Zhao Xiaojin promoted the development of Chinese space biosecurity, through the establishment of new policies and regulations, and encouraging research in the area. Zhao also suggested the establishment of a dedicated Key State Laboratory on space biosecurity. 
Liu Zhirang, CASC’s 6th Academy Party Committee secretary, emphasized the necessity for SOEs in key sectors of the economy to engage in efforts to provide affordable housing to employees, as a measure to attract and retain talent. Housing pressure has increased significantly in China over the past years, and entry-level salaries at aerospace SOEs are low compared to roles in the private sector for applicants with comparable skills.
Yan Dapeng, vice-chairman and chief engineer of CASIC Sanjiang Ruike, suggested encouraging the use of domestic equipment and instruments, to support the development of Chinese domestic companies. Also highlights the growing competitiveness of Chinese high tech equipment compared to international competition. Suggests that the policy should be implemented by provinces, municipalities, and SoEs. Policy could be implemented with tax exemptions and rebates.
And finally, Ma Jie, secretary of the party committee of CASIC’s 2nd Academy, mentioned that the Tiankun-2 smallsat prototype would launch soon, and that the satellite would aim at testing various key smallsat platform technologies. It would present many improvements over the Tiankun-1, a prototype launched by CASIC in 2017.
The Week in Launch
Galactic Energy performed its first full-system test run of its Qingqiong kerolox engine this week. The Qingqiong is able to produce 50 tons of thrust, and will power Galactic Energy’s future Pallas-1 medium-lift reusable rocket. The past week’s test aimed at verifying the engine start-up and shutdown sequence, and the coordination between the different parts of the engine.
Launch company iSpace signed an agreement with the government of Daxing New District in Beijing, in a piece of news dating back to late February. Under the agreement, the district government of Daxing will provide ¥100M to iSpace for the construction of the company’s rocket production line in the district.
Interestingly, iSpace has been in Daxing for a rather long time, and the district has no shortage of commercial launch companies, with >10 having set up shop there, positioning themselves near China’s largest state-owned launch manufacturer CALT (for more info on the launch cluster in southeastern Beijing, check out our Dongfang Hour Beijing city deep-dive). This makes the government support a little bit unusual, given that historically, we have seen local-level governments provide support to companies as an incentive to move operations there, or because the local government wants to develop a specific industry in their area. 
Galactic Energy's Highly Pixelated Qingqiong Engine Test
Galactic Energy's Highly Pixelated Qingqiong Engine Test
Orbital Gateway Consulting Insights Interlude
The past 2 weeks have seen an incredible number of space-related updates coming out of the Two Sessions–so many that we have had to leave quite a few out of the newsletter. Luckily, we have compiled all the relevant Two Sessions updates, and are wrapping them into a debrief report.
For an overview of the Two Sessions and its discussions related to Chinese space, reach out to
Now back to the news!
The Week in China’s Space Program
Published earlier this year and updated this week, we saw a feature article on China’s Xi’an Satellite Control Center. The article digs into some of the importance of ground control (no mention of Major Tom), as well as the need for China to upgrade its TT&C capabilities in light of a huge increase in the number of satellites being launched by the country. Moving forward, the Xi’an Satellite Control Center plans to develop AI capabilities to manage megaconstellations.
Further away from earth, the Tianqin-1 satellite, launched in late 2019, collected information about the earth’s magnetic field for the first time. The satellite is operated by Sun Yat-Sen University and Huazhong University of Science & Technology, two of China’s most prestigious universities, and aims to verify key technologies of space gravitational wave detection.
Finally, going back to the Two Sessions, Wu Weiren gave some additional details of the Phase 4 of China’s lunar exploration missions (Chang’e 6, 7, 8), notably:
  • Chang’e 6, 7 and 8 would take place before 2030 (this was already known)
  • Chang’e 6 will target the lunar polar region, and would bring back 1-2 kg of lunar samples. There are currently 2 options for the landing area: either the far side of the moon (but it would require to deploy an additional 1-2 relay satellites), or the lunar south pole, but the landing would be very challenging.
  • Chang’e 7 will land on the lunar south pole, and aim to survey available resources (water, ice), and the local topography. It will include a hopper to explore craters near the lander.
  • Chang’e 8 will aim at pioneering the use of these resources (ISRU)
  • Wu described the difficulty of landing on the lunar south pole “There are no large plains, very rough terrain, so it is difficult to find the landing point”
  • With the future ILRS, Wu sees multiple rovers, landers, and hoppers working simultaneously in a coordinated way, linked to a command center. A communication network would be set up on the moon (“lunar WiFi”) to this effect.
Xi'an Satellite Control Center
Xi'an Satellite Control Center
The Week in Satellite Manufacturing + operation
This week saw a couple of new constellations announced, as well as a reveal on some very rough dates for a replacement for the recently-launched BeiDou 3rd Generation of satnav satellites. First, a new constellation announced by the Shandong Institute of Industry and Research and the Chinese Academy of Sciences Shanghai Innovation Academy for Microsatellites. The constellation would focus on carbon detection, and would consist of 11 satellites in the first phase, and 10 more in the second phase. The first satellite is scheduled for launch in early 2023, and with the remaining satellites also planned for the same year.
This week also saw the announcement of a new EO constellation based on GNSS radio occultation technology, planned by CASIC’s 2nd Academy. The constellation would be overseen by the Institute 23 of CASIC’s second Academy, and aims at providing high temporal and spatial resolution EO imagery for meteorology applications. According to the Secretary of the Party Committee of CASIC’s 2nd Academy, a first test satellite was launched in 2021.
This is the second radio occultation constellation announced in China, following the 80-satellite constellation by Yunyao Yuhang, currently under deployment.
The week also saw Yang Changfeng, the Chief designer of the Beidou satnav system, announce that China would complete the development of a new generation of Beidou satellites around 2035, without providing any additional details.
Finally, the on-orbit podcast from ViaSatellite interviewed Mr. Huang Baozhong, Executive Vice President of Hong Kong-based satellite operator APT Satellite this week. The discussion covered the satcom sector in Asia-Pacific today, main growth opportunities for APT Satellite, and some rather more specific topics like usage of extended Ku-band. 
The Week in Satellite Applications
On International Women’s Day, the CEO of Chinese EO data analytics company F-Squares Technology was interviewed about her experiences in China’s space sector. During the interview, the highly quotable Xi Xiaofei gave insights on remote sensing, running a business, and other topics. When asked what caused her to start F-Squares, Xi highlighted the 2014 liberalization of the space sector, bringing in “rapid development”, and creating market demand for commercial companies. 
Xi also shared a story of a July 2021 typhoon in Ningbo, during which time F-Squares obtained and processed data within 20mins, giving the city information on water depth, urban waterlogging risks, and other information that was very helpful for first responders. 
Next, Chinese commercial space startup Star Vision and Saudi Arabian state-owned development companies TAQNIA ETS and TAQNIA Space signed an MoU on the sidelines of the World Defense Show in Riyadh this week. The MoU calls for collaboration in areas of space technology, satellites, AI, and geospatial products. According to the press release, TAQNIA ETS is “the leading geospatial company in Saudi Arabia”, and is keen to collaborate with Star Vision in order to better integrate AI in their geospatial products. 
In other news, satellite manufacturer and application developer Commsat signed an agreement with Sixents Technology (六分科技) this week. The two companies agreed to collaborate in developing applications for Satellite Internet, Maritime IoT, and enhanced satellite navigation in verticals such as transportation and agriculture. 
Sixtents spun off from NavInfo in 2018, and provides high precision navigation and positioning services thanks to a network of ground stations. It is part of Tencent’s ecosystem (according to its corporate website), and both Sixtents and Commsat are startups invested by the China Internet Investment Fund (CIIF, 中网投).
Images of Panzhihua, Sichuan taken from Landsat-9 (left) and Xingshidai-17 (right)
Images of Panzhihua, Sichuan taken from Landsat-9 (left) and Xingshidai-17 (right)
Commercial satellite operator ADSpace completed on-orbit calibration of its “new generation AI-5 payload” this week following its launch on the Long March-8 rideshare from the last few days of February. The satellite payload features on-board processing with a computing power of up to 1.5 Teraflops (for any gamers out there, approximately ⅛ the processing power of an XBOX Series X). ADASpace published a handful of pretty incredible images from the satellite, including several from the company’s home province of Sichuan. 
Finally, in a mysterious update, mobile phone/consumer IoT company Xiaomi filed patents for satellite communication terminals. The company did not respond to requests for comment following the publication of the article.
Other News of the Week
Russo-Ukrainian War: Any Consequences on China's Space Program?
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has had a significant impact on the space sector, due in part to the (perhaps surprisingly) integrated nature of the Russian space sector with those of the US and Western Europe. But what is the impact on Chinese space? This week on Dongfang Hour, we dove into the impact of the invasion on China’s space sector, which may include added difficulties in finding partners for the Sino-Russian ILRS, and will likely have a major impact on China’s (relatively prosperous) relationship with the Ukrainian space sector.
We saw an article published in the last week of February highlighting the emerging space sector in Shandong Province, and in particular the Qilu constellation operated by the Shandong Institute of Industry and Research. The constellation was included in the Provincial Two Sessions alongside projects such as a National Robotics Information Center. During the week, we also saw images from Qilu-1 of the Millerovo Air Base in Russia, which clearly showed multiple Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets.
As a reminder, Shandong is China’s second most-populous province, with more than 100M people, and had a GDP of ~US$1.3T in 2021, making it roughly comparable to Mexico. The province therefore has significant economic heft should it choose to devote it to developing a space sector.
On the financial side of the sector, we saw another announced IPO this week (following last week’s announcement by CGSTL). Tirain Technology (天润科技)announced plans to IPO on the Beijing Stock Exchange, with the company planning to offer ~18 million shares at a price of ~¥8.05 per share. The funds will be used to develop more geospatial products and services, as well as build an R&D center for intelligent application of 3D imagery.
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