Last week, Galactic Energy became the first Chinese commercial space company to have 2 successful orbital launches - both with its Ceres-1 rocket, the latest having happened on December 7. As part of the launch, several satellites included high-tech components made by companies or other entities in Tianjin. “So what?” you may rightly ask. Galactic Energy was not among the first 10 commercial launch companies to be founded, and Tianjin is not one of the 10 most vibrant space industry clusters in China. In short, this week made it clear that there is impressive depth in the Chinese space sector, with the lesser-known companies and smaller geographic clusters playing an increasingly big role.
Regarding companies: there are many commercial space companies in China, and all of them, including ‘second generation’ ones such as Galactic Energy, are doing amazing things. Having been founded in 2018 (~3 years ago!), few would have predicted that Galactic Energy would have been the first commercial space company to have 2 successful orbital launches in China. Hence, when analysing the Chinese commercial space sector, beyond ‘first generation’ companies such as Landspace, iSpace, OneSpace, Linkspace and others, one should not forget the ones founded later on because they are also achieving great results at a very fast pace.
Regarding geographic clusters: there are many such clusters across China, and while the spotlight may be mainly on a few of them, many more are actually worth following very closely. In the case of Tianjin, its proximity to Beijing means that it often gets overlooked, yet the city has had a pretty strong traditional space sector for quite some years. This week saw participants from multiple non-CASC entities playing a big role in the Galactic Energy launch. Of the satellites launched this week, one of the satellites was co-developed by Tianjin University and CGSTL, and Tianjin Huaxin Technology Company developed the high-performance inertial measurement units on two of the Spacety satellites.
While Tianjin as a municipality is heavily indebted, it is nonetheless a large city with a large government with a large budget. This suggests that if they do want to prioritize space industry development, they will likely find the funds. Besides Tianjin, there are also many more developing space industry clusters to keep an eye on!