DFHour #35: New Year wishes, China-Russia lunar plans, Starlink/CSS near collision and more

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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 27 Dec-2 Jan 2021. First of all, we wish everyone a happy new year! Before the analysis of the main updates of the week, the Highlight will be dedicated to new year wishes and announcements in the Chinese space sector.
New Year Greetings by CASC
New Year Greetings by CASC
Highlight of the Week: Happy New Year from the Chinese space sector!
On January 1, to celebrate the New Year, CNSA released a series of shots taken by a second sub-satellite released by the Tianwen-1 orbiter. This operation had already been performed during Tianwen 1’s trip between the Earth and Mars in October 2020, and resulted in the famous “space selfie”. In a similar feat, the new pictures show the Tianwen-1 orbiter with Mars in the background, a close-up shot of the Mars North pole, as well as a panoramic image taken by Zhurong on the Martian surface.
Tianwen-1 orbiter with Mars in the background
Tianwen-1 orbiter with Mars in the background
In a New Year message posted on WeChat, CASC summarizes launches performed in 2021, as well as plans for 2022. CASC expects 40+ launches, including 6 Chinese Space Station-related missions, and the maiden launch of the Long March 6A. The number 40+ only includes CASC launches (Long March Rockets), meaning that it is very possible that China breaks, in 2022, its current record of ~55 launches in 2021 (which was already breaking the precedent record of 39 launches in 2020!). This is because in addition to CASC, many Chinese commercial launch companies should also perform launches in 2022: more regular launches of already in-service rockets (Ceres-1, Hyperbola-1, potentially Kuaizhou-1A contingent on how quickly Expace recovers from the recent failure), and maiden launches of many new rockets (Hyperbola-2, Zhuque-2, Tianlong-1, ZK-1, Jielong-3, Kuaizhou-11…).
Lastly, Landspace unveiled pictures of the Zhuque-2 rocket in a new year video on Chinese social media, as an end-of-the-year surprise, offering us a glimpse of a rocket that may perform a maiden launch in 2022. The company also gives an overview of its main achievements in 2021.
The Week in Launch
In addition to the abovementioned updates in the launch sector, several commercial companies ended the year on a good note. First, in a technical review meeting on December 27, Orienspace (a.k.a. Ospace) validated the feasibility of the Gravity-1 rocket. The review panel examined and validated the rocket’s reliability, payload capacity, pricing, technologies, and the R&D development timeline - among other things. Ospace was founded in 2020, and aims at developing “small and medium-sized solid-fueled rockets, and medium to heavy lift reusable liquid-fueled rockets”. The maiden launch of the Gravity-1 rocket is scheduled for 2023. 
Secondly, on December 30, Chinese engine manufacturer Jiuzhou Yunjian announced in a WeChat post that both the Lingyun and Longyun methalox engines have passed a review by the customer and launch company Rocket Pi. The review covered design, process, delivery, and quality assurance, according to the WeChat post. For some context, Rocket Pi signed a purchase order worth “tens of millions of RMB” for the Longyun and Lingyun methalox engines, for the company’s Darwin series of rockets. 
The end of 2021 also saw several more launches, including that of the Tianhui-4 EO satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center onboard a Long March 4D rocket, on December 29. Tianhui-4 (literally “Sky Mapping-4”) was designed by CAST, and aims at “scientific experiment research, land and resources survey, and geographic information surveying and mapping tasks”. The Long March 4D was reported to have been fitted for the first time with a dual satellite dispenser (无污染双星侧挂分配器) using non-polluting propellants. The Tianhui-4 represented China’s 54th launch of 2021.
On the same day, China also launched TJSW-9 (通讯技术试验卫星9号) communications test satellite into GEO on-board a Long March 3B rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan. This represents China’s 55th and final launch of 2021, breaking its previous records of ~40 launches in 2019 and 2020. 
Lastly, Space Transportation announced the 9th test of its Tianxing series of suborbital spaceplanes, and the 7th test of 2021.
Nose cone of the LM-4D rocket carrying the Tianhui-4 EO satellite
Nose cone of the LM-4D rocket carrying the Tianhui-4 EO satellite
The Week in China’s Space Program
This week is representative of the increasingly fast pace of China’s national space missions. First, in a recent interview to Chinese national television, the deputy director of the CNSA Wu Yanhua revealed that the Phase 4 of China’s lunar exploration plans, including the future Chang’e 6, 7 and 8 missions, has been confirmed.
For the first mission, Chang’e 7 (and not Chang’e 6!), the spacecraft will head towards the lunar south pole, where are notably located a significant part of the Moon’s water resources in the form of ice. The highly sophisticated mission, scheduled for launch in 2024, will reportedly consist of an orbiter, a relay satellite, a lander, a moon hopper and a rover. The hopper will enable close-up exploration of the permanently shaded regions (PSR), which could have some similarity with the Nova-C mission planned by NASA, Intuitive Machines and the Arizona State University in 2022.
Next, Chang’e 6 will aim at returning samples from the South Pole–Aitken basin, one of the deepest lunar craters situated on the far side of the Moon. It will also reportedly carry instruments from foreign space agencies, including payloads from France, Italy, Sweden and Russia. Lastly, Chang’e 8 could help to “define a base model for the future ILRS station”, according to Wu Yanhua’s interview to CCTV. It could include the verification of key technologies such as in-situ resources utilization, 3D printing with lunar regolith, or extraction of water from the ice present in the south pole.
Separately from the Chang’e lunar mission updates, Roscosmos announced that China and Russia will sign a new 5-year Space Cooperation Program agreement, covering 2023 to 2027, and which will include plans for setting up the Sino-Russian ILRS lunar station by 2035. The agreement follows the previous 2018-2022 Sino-Russian space agreement.
China and Russia announced future signature of a new Space Cooperation Program agreement
China and Russia announced future signature of a new Space Cooperation Program agreement
Still related to China’s lunar program, the loan of a third batch of Chang’e 5 lunar samples has been approved by China’s lunar exploration center, after a review of applications by an expert committee. 33 applications from 11 research institutes were approved, including: Nanjing University, Tongji University, China University of Geosciences, the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, the University of Science and Technology of China, the Institute of Geochemistry, the Institute of Geology and Geophysics, the Guangzhou Geochemistry Institute, the NSSC, the Institute of Deep Sea Sciences and Engineering, and the Northwest Institute of Environment and Resources. A total of 9.4553g were distributed in this third batch.
Lastly, at an annual Astronomy Conference organized on December 3, Zhan Hu, a researcher from the CAS National Astronomy Observatories discussed the progress on the construction of China’s “Hubble” telescope, which was reported to be scheduled for launch sometime around 2024. The Xuntian telescope will be sent to an orbit close to that of the Chinese Space Station, enabling the former to dock to the latter, and for taikonauts to perform maintenance operations if needed. Zhan Hu mentioned that by the end of 2022, prototype parts will be completed (“预计2022年末,将完成初样鉴定件研制”).
The Week in Satellite Applications
CASIC unveiled a satellite IoT online platform this week that aims to provide turnkey satellite IoT solutions, primarily using the Xingyun constellation from CASIC. The platform currently offers 10 products across 3 categories, namely Xingyun core products, Xingyun application terminal products, and Xingyun integrated applications systems. The website offers solutions focused on 7 industries, including natural disasters, container shipping, meteorology and environment, maritime, forestry, water conservation, and agriculture. The platform also seems to have a pretty automated user profile section, whereby an enterprise customer can view their satellite IoT plans and browse or add new products.
The Week in Satellite Manufacturing + operation
Within the last days of 2021, commercial satellite manufacturers Galaxy Space and Commsat passed key milestones, enabling them to start the new year off on the right foot. On December 27, Galaxy Space signed an investment cooperation agreement with the Hefei High Tech Zone ( Hefei being the capital city of Anhui province). The company will settle its Global Remote Sensing Industrial Base (全球遥感卫星产业基地) in the city, highlighting Hefei’s strategy of attracting high-tech companies to the city. This has been the case for other second-tier cities, and which have been discussed in previous editions of the newsletter (Chengdu with Galactic Energy, Suzhou with Rocket Pi and Space Pioneer, …).
Worth noting, Galaxy Space is mainly known as a communications satellite manufacturer. The company launched in 2020 the Galaxy-1 “5G” Ka and Q/V band demonstrator satellite to verify relevant satcom technologies in LEO. However it signed earlier this year an agreement with remote sensing analytics company Piesat to provide a SAR constellation (reportedly in collaboration with CAST). This latest news on a Remote Sensing Industrial Base highlights Galaxy Space’s strategy of diversifying into the Earth Observation segment. 
Commercial satellite manufacturer Commsat announced on December 30 that its test LEO communications satellite had passed factory review. The 220kg satellite will have a payload of 10 Gbps, and use Ka-band for user links and V-band for feeder links. The assembly, integration, and testing (AIT) of the satellite were completed in 2 months.
The Week in Policy & Events
Beijing announced several policies in support of general R&D, of which several were directly relevant to space. Notably, the city offers financing to “support science & technological achievements”, with R&D focused on industrializing rockets, satellites, and ground terminals. For companies investing more than RMB 10M into production equipment over the course of a given year, the city will reimburse up to 20% of the cost, for a maximum of RMB 20M per company. 
Lastly, what may be bigger news than initially meets the eye, we saw a ceremony between leadership of China Satellite Networks Limited (China SatNet), the Chongqing Municipality, and the Liangjiang New Area (a new area of Chongqing) on December 29. The main purpose of the event was the inauguration of the China SatNet Application Company Limited (中国星网网络应用有限公司) and the Chongqing Satellite Network Systems Research Institute Company (重庆星网系统研究院公司), two subsidiaries of China SatNet that will be set up in Chongqing. However, there were quite a few additional nuggets of information to extract from this ceremony.
Arguably the most notable is a statement from China SatNet Chairman Yang Baohua that “the construction of a national satellite internet system, and the establishment of China Satellite Network Limited, are major strategic decisions made by General Secretary Xi Jinping and the Party Central Committee”. (杨保华在致辞中表示,建设国家卫星互联网系统、组建中国星网是习近平总书记和党中央作出的重大战略决策).
The ceremony also saw agreements between China SatNet, Chang’an Auto, and Chongqing Unicom (a subsidiary of China Unicom). Chang’an Auto is one of China’s largest state-owned carmakers, and the agreement will focus on “satellite internet, mobile communications, Internet of Things, broadband data, navigation enhancements, internet of vehicles, etc.” With Chongqing Unicom, SatNet will be developing new applications and new business models for satellite internet.
Inauguration ceremony of two subsidiaries of China SatNet in Chongqing
Inauguration ceremony of two subsidiaries of China SatNet in Chongqing
Other News of the Week
This week saw significant media coverage of a document published by the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) earlier in December, which saw China invoke Article V of the United Nations Outer Space Treaty following two near-misses between the Chinese Space Station and Starlink satellites, on 1 July and 21 October 2021. Article 5 indeed states that “States Parties to the Treaty shall immediately inform the other States Parties to the Treaty or the Secretary-General of the United Nations of any phenomena they discover in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, which could constitute a danger to the life or health of astronauts.” The document from CNSA provides a number of details about the near incidents, that we analyse in this week’s episode.
At a press conference on Tuesday 28 December, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Zhao Lijian referred to 1967’s Outer Space Treaty, which calls for states to be responsible for national space activities, “whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities”. Zhao called upon the United States to “take immediate measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents, and adopt a responsible attitude to safeguard the lives of astronauts in orbit and the safe and stable operation of space facilities”. It is interesting to contrast China’s strong reaction to those events, with its silence in November for Russia’s ASAT test - illustrating a rapprochement between China and Russia, as much as the political nature of reactions to threats of collision in orbit.
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