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DFHour#27: Linkspace's successful pump-fed engine test, Shenzhou-13 1st EVA 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 Dongfang Hour China Space Newsletter for 1-7 Nov 2021. In addition to analyzing the weekly news, this week’s newsletter focuses on China’s projection of space power in the Highlight of the Week. Enjoy this edition, and also check out our weekly video episode for additional detail.
Highlight of the Week
This week saw several examples illustrating the way China utilizes the space realm as an important tool of soft power. The November 5 launch of a Chinese-built EO satellite aboard a LM-6 rocket, “SDGSat-1” (focused on helping to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals), indeed constitutes a way for China to show that its space program is aimed at peaceful purposes, and that it is ready to dedicate entire payloads to UNSDGs. China playing a central role in international space collaborations was already at the heart of the narrative in the Chinese movie The Wandering Earth (流浪地球) adapted from Liu Cixin’s eponymous novel, and could play a role in the upcoming series Three-Body Problem (三体), also based on Liu Cixin’s trilogy.
While the aforementioned mission is peaceful in nature, another event this week reminds us that space is also key to modern warfare. Indeed, an article from SCMP, named “Chinese satellite hints at space warfare prowess by dodging US surveillance”, discussed a space maneuver that took place in July 2021. Last summer, the US surveillance satellite USA-271 approached the Shijian-20 satellite to monitor it, with the Shijian-20 satellite “rapidly” moving away, according to US military website Breaking Defense. The US has indicated being “concerned about Chinese satellites’ potential warfare capabilities”. Such concerns already arose in April 2021 with regard to Shijian 17’s robotic arm, potentially able to grapple other satellites in space, and again in May with regard to the robotic arm of the Chinese Space Station.
The Week in Launch
Interesting developments in the commercial launch sector this week, from a company that has been in total stealth mode over the past two years: Linkspace. China’s first commercial launch company announced the successful completion of a first batch of tests of its first pump-fed engine, the Fengbao-1 (风暴一号, “Storm-1”). The tests were said to investigate “pump system efficiency, variable working condition capabilities, and engine throttling”. This type of more sophisticated engine will enable Linkspace to go beyond the several hundred meter VTVL hops it had performed previously, and build a suborbital and orbital rocket prototype.
The company’s choice to self-develop its own engines is rather surprising, since they had signed in the summer of 2019 a collaboration with Jiuzhou Yunjian, an engine manufacturer, to use their Lingyun 10t thrust methalox engine. The latest news about the Fengbao-1 may suggest that the collaboration did not go forward as planned.
On the topic of Jiuzhou Yunjian, the company completed a variable thrust test and engine gimballing test of its 10-ton Lingyun engine. The test occurred at its facility in Bengbu, Anhui Province, which as we have noted, is in the very far western portion of the Yangtze River Delta, a region home to a rapidly-developing cluster of commercial launch companies. 
Another interesting development took place in Haiyang, Shandong Province, where we saw the commencement of construction of a rocket-launching vessel to be completed by 2022. With a length of 162.5m and a width of 40m, the rocket will aim to launch and recover medium-to-heavy thrust solid-fueled and small-to-medium thrust liquid-fueled rockets. The article notes that the China Oriental Spaceport was approved in July 2019, and that CALT subsidiary China Rocket signed an agreement with the city of Haiyang in December 2020 to manufacture solid-fueled rockets. 
Additionally, Wednesday saw the launch of 2x Yaogan-32 EO/SIGINT satellites on a Long March-2C from Jiuquan. This was the second pair of Yaogan satellites with the “-32” designation, with the first having been launched in 2018. As we have covered before on the Dongfang Hour, the past couple of years have seen a dramatic ramp-up in the launch of Yaogan satellites, with this being the 8th Yaogan launch of 2021, or which 6x have been trios, 1x has been single, and this most recent duo. 
Last piece of launch-related news, the 800th Institute of SAST completed one of the largest domestic LOX tanks, with a 3.8m diameter and a length of 21m. The 800th Institute, aka the Shanghai Institute of Precision Machinery, is specialised in advanced materials, and manufactures aerospace structures and components for carrier rockets.
Test of Linkspace's Fengbao-1
Test of Linkspace's Fengbao-1
The Week in China’s Space Program
On November 8, the Shenzhou-13 crew performed its first extra-vehicular activity (EVA), which lasted for 6.5 hours. Taikonauts Zhai Zhigang (翟志刚) and Wang Yaping (王亚平) performed a verification of the robotic arm suspension and adapters, including of the dual-arm assembly adapters, as well as other routine equipment verification. There will actually be two robotic arms on the CSS, developed by the 5th Academy of CASC. There is the main arm, currently operational on the Tianhe core module, and a smaller one on the future Wentian module (问天实验舱). Both arms can be combined to form one larger “super-arm”.
This is the 3rd EVA performed on the CSS, the first two having been performed by the Shenzhou-12 crew. The latter addressed the public in a video after having completed the full recovery phase, expressing gratitude for the support received throughout the 3-months mission aboard the core module of the Chinese Space Station, from June 17 to September 17, 2021. 
Photo of the 1st EVA of the Shenzhou-13 crew
Photo of the 1st EVA of the Shenzhou-13 crew
The Week in Satellite Manufacturing + operation
Noteworthy developments in satellite manufacturing this week. On October 31st, Chinese smallsat manufacturer Spacety, based in Changsha (Central China), signed a cooperation agreement with the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications for a constellation called Tiansuan (天算), literally “celestial calculations”. For a start, it will be composed of 6 satellites, with the first satellite, “BUPT-1”, planned for launch in May 2022, and the completion of the constellation for 2023. The objective of this constellation has been described as “carrying out preliminary research on intelligent digital infrastructure, providing technical support for the development of China’s 6G network, satellite Internet and other technologies.” This deal comes a couple weeks after Spacety signed a cooperation agreement with the Institute 38 of CETC at the Zhuhai Air Show to launch and operate a constellation of 96 SAR satellites called Tianxian (天仙). Interestingly, both partners/customers of the aforementioned constellations are from state-owned academies or research institutes, their choice to collaborate with a private space company in Changsha instead of state-owned smallsat manufacturers shows that Spacety could be bringing a unique value proposition to the table. 
In terms of satellite operation-related news, Tianlian TT&C and Beijing Star Time signed an MoU for what seems to be TT&C service for BST’s planned GEO-HTS satellite, expected to cover Belt and Road regions and be primarily targeting mobility verticals. The deal is early stage, as is BST’s business plan, but it is nonetheless noteworthy as it would seemingly be the first commercial GEO satellite TT&C service provision deal for Tianlian.
Signature of the cooperation agreement between Spacety and BUPT
Signature of the cooperation agreement between Spacety and BUPT
The Week in Policy & Events
This week saw the Cyberport Venture Capital Forum (CVCF), held at Hong Kong Cyberport. This year’s forum saw increased participation from the small but growing space sector in Hong Kong, including a panel organized by the Orion Astropreneur Space Academy (OASA) on the topic of investment in commercial space, and Hong Kong’s role in the sector. In addition to Dongfang Hour co-host Blaine, the panel included the Director of the Laboratory for Space Research at the University of Hong Kong, as well as a VC investor from Hong Kong. 
As the event name would imply, a lot of the focus of the different panels was on investment and venture capital. For our part at Dongfang Hour, we shared some insights on Chinese space industry funding, including the total funds raised over the past 7 years (nearly RMB 10B in 2020 at the peak), and verticals of emphasis (around half of Chinese space industry funding has gone to launch). We also highlighted the complex interplay of different stakeholders in the Chinese space ecosystem–most of the leading companies today benefit from support from either an SOE patron, local government, CAS, or some combination thereof, and there is a lot of cooperation and coordination that needs to occur between these diverse stakeholders. 
Moving forward, Hong Kong may have an interesting role to play in the development of the space sector in the Greater Bay Area. At the moment, we are seeing clusters developing in Guangzhou (CAS Space, GeeSpace, Haige Communications, Guangzhou Starway), Shenzhen (Zero Gravity Labs, SZ DFH, BUPT Shenzhen, etc.), and even activity in cities like Dongguan, where electronics manufacturer TCL set up a space-focused semiconductor manufacturing facility. Given Hong Kong’s role as an offshore finance center, the presence of a different legal system from Mainland China, and a more international perspective, will likely contribute to Hong Kong’s role in the Chinese space sector. 
Other News of the Week
Two last pieces of news are worthy of mentioning. First, new Chinese launch startup oSpace appointed Yao Song as Co-CEO. Yao Song was formerly founder of Shenjian Technology, a company that developed semiconductors for autonomous driving, smart security, cloud computing, and AI, and that was acquired by Xilinx for US$300M in 2018. In a long and insightful interview, Yao Song relates his journey from one of China’s top unis (Tsinghua), thereafter going to Stanford, and founding Shenjian Technology in 2016. Now 29 and financially independent, it’s interesting that Yao Song would go and join one of China’s newest commercial launch firms, having been founded only last year. If oSpace burst onto the scene with an RMB 400M (US$65M) initial funding round earlier this year, they still have a lot of competition, being China’s ~20th launch company. It nevertheless seems to be growing quickly, as its Gravity-1 (Yinli-1) rocket has entered the preliminary production test stage. It is presumably being supporedt by the government of Shandong.
Secondly, after its Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), China mulls building 6 additional super-large radio telescopes. China’s 500m FAST telescope, completed in 2016 and located in Guizhou, is the largest radio telescope on earth. It has apparently been so successful that the Chinese government plans to expand the project to six dishes in the region, according to Professor Wu Xiangping of the National Astronomical Observatories. The latter claimed that such a project, should it be realized, “would put China 50 years ahead of the world”. Cost is a consideration, and according to Wu Jianghua of Beijing Normal University, the FAST telescope had cost more than US$100M. The article also provided some insight into debates around how these telescopes should be built, with one group lobbying for a large number of small telescopes, and another for a small number of large ones. The larger the number of telescopes, the more computing power required to analyze the data.
China's Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in Guizhou
China's Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in Guizhou
This has been another episode of the Dongfang Hour China Space News(letter). If you’ve made it this far, we thank you for your attention, and look forward to seeing you next time! Until then, don’t forget to follow us on our websiteYouTubeTwitterInstagramLinkedIn, or your local podcast source.
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