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DFHour #36: What to expect from the Chinese Space Station this year, Laser ISL from HiStarlink, 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 3-9 Jan 2022. This week, we analyze what to expect for the Chinese Space Station in 2022, and also review last week’s main updates of the Chinese space sector, including launch plans by CASC, the debut of laser ISL company HiStarlink, Hebei’s strengthening space industry, and much more. You can watch our weekly episode for a more in-depth analysis!
Highlight of the Week: What to expect for the CSS in 2022?
Last year saw the successful launch of the Tianhe-1 core module of the Chinese Space Station (CSS), as well as the success of various technology verification missions. At the dawn of another major year for the Chinese Space Station, we ask what to expect for the CSS in 2022?
To recall, the deployment of the CSS is split into two phases. The first is the Key Technology Verification Phase (关键技术验证阶段) that was completed in 2021 (or perhaps arguably in January 2022, with the recent successful transfer of the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft to the side docking port of the CSS core module that we analyze below). The second is the Orbital Construction Phase (空间站在轨建造阶段) to be completed in 2022. This phase will involve 6 launches in total: two of Long March 5B to put into orbit the Mengtian and Wentian experimental modules, as well as 2 Shenzhou crewed and 2 Tianzhou cargo missions.
The Mengtian and Wentian modules will significantly increase the capabilities of the CSS, turning it from a 20t to a 60t space station. Whereas the Tianhe-1 core module is in charge of attitude and orbital control, telemetry, and constituting the living quarters of the station, the two additional modules will provide space to conduct scientific experiments.
In 2022, we can hence expect the completion of the Chinese Space Station, with the docking of the Mengtian and Wentian experimental modules to the core module of the CSS! This week’s YouTube episode breaks down some recent ongoings at the Chinese Space Station, check it out below for more details 👇
The Chinese Space Station Tests Module Transfer Capability, A Startup is Developing Laser Comms Tech
The Week in Launch
This week saw more updates on plans for the upcoming year in the launch sector. During its 2022 annual work conference, CASC’s leadership highlighted a number of objectives for the upcoming year, including 40+ Long March rocket launches in 2022, completing the Chinese Space Station with 6 launches (2x experimental modules, 2 Shenzhou missions, 2 cargo missions), the maiden launch of the Long March 6A. Other important points that were stressed included technology and research challenges, and the ability to adapt manufacturing cadences to increase output (“batch produce”).
Among the 40+ LM rocket launches planned, two will be dedicated to launching the Yitu and Xuanming satellites of Beijing-based Xingyuan Technology (北京星愿航天科技). Both satellites have arrived at Xichang, and should be launched shortly onboard a Long March 2C, according to a recent WeChat post by the company. Yitu is an EO remote sensing satellite to be used for environmental protection and agricultural monitoring purposes. It will also constitute the first “space memorial”, enabling people to “send and store personal items in space” aboard the satellite.
This week also saw the announcement of 2022 launch plans by Taiwanese companies. According to a recent infographic published by Taiwanese Twitter account “新‧二七部隊 軍事雜談”, Taiwan would attempt 4 launches in 2022. Two sounding rockets would be launched by ARRC, a launch research organization affiliated with the National Chiao Tung University. The two remaining launches would be performed by TiSpace, a commercial launch company building the Hapith series of rockets, at the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex in Australia. The suborbital Hapith I would be launched in Q1/2022, while the maiden launch of the orbital Hapith V would be performed in Q3/2022, according to the infographic.
Lastly, on January 4, commercial launch company Orienspace (aka Ospace) signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Tsinghua University-affiliated Tianjin Institute of Electronics and Information Technology. Space applications is reported to be one of the newer research directions of the Institute, which established in 2021 the Aerospace and Equipment Technology Center (宇航与装备科技中心) in 2021. The co-CEO of Orienspace, Yao Song, was an undergraduate from the Department of Electronic Engineering of Tsinghua University, and is known to have close ties with the institution.
CASC's 2022 annual work conference
CASC's 2022 annual work conference
The Week in China’s Space Program
In the latest milestone in the construction of the Chinese Space Station, China conducted a transfer test with the robotic arm of the space station on the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft, that was docked to the front docking port of the Tianhe core module, on January 6 2022. This test served as a technology verification test to prepare for the future docking of the Wentian and Mengtian experimental modules later this year. Both modules will indeed be docked to the side docking ports of the Tianhe-1 core module, using a small robotic arm (Lyappa) included with each experimental module. If the Lyappa arm fails, the main robotic arm of the Chinese Space Station, which is installed on the Tianhe-1 core module, will act as a back-up. Last week’s successful test thereby validates this capability. A few days later, the taikonauts aboard the CSS  manually undocked Tianzhou-2 cargo, made it retreat to a distance of 200m from the space station core module, and then back to re-dock with the front docking port. This was apparently the final verification test with Tianzhou-2 before it getting de-orbited. For more details, you can watch our weekly episode!
Astrodynamics, a scientific journal co-published by Springer and Tsinghua University, recently released an issue dedicated to the Tianwen-1’s entry, descent and landing on Mars, with in-depth coverage of the technical choices made for the mission’s design and the corresponding results. Last week, SAST also revealed details of the disposable camera unit used to take last week’s Tianwen-1/Mars selfies. After its release from Tianwen-1, the camera, equipped with two wide-angle lenses mounted on both sides, sent the pictures taken at a rate of 1 image per second to the orbiter via wifi, before floating away. The pictures are in the featured article!
Successful transfer of the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft to the side docking port of the CSS core module
Successful transfer of the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft to the side docking port of the CSS core module
The Week in Satellite Manufacturing + operation
Laser inter-satellite links (ISL) manufacturing company HiStarlink (氦星光联) recently announced its Angel and Angel + rounds of funding, which took place around 1 month apart. Founded in August 2021, HiStarlink is a new company with a vision of developing low-power miniature spaceborne laser communication terminals and core devices. The company’s products include space-grade core optoelectronic devices, ultra high-speed communication algorithms, laser communication terminals, and satellite-to-ground laser ground receiving systems. They plan on-orbit verification of its technology in Q1 2022, and hope to complete on-orbit verification of the laser comms between two satellites by the end of 2022. The team comes from the CAS, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jiaotong, HIT, and other universities. 
HiStarlink represents a member of an early generation of highly specialized subsystems-level Chinese commercial space companies that can involve a handful of scientists collecting a small amount of money from mostly private investors, and trying to make a specific technology. In any case, HiStarlink is definitely a company to keep an eye on!
Lastly, a recent article by the Chinese media Satellite World goes over Hefei City’s recent efforts to develop a local space industry. Most eye-catching is probably the collaboration between Spacety, a commercial satellite manufacturer from Changsha, and the 38th Institute of CETC, based in Hefei, to build the Tianxian 96-satellite SAR constellation. The 38th Institute of CETC is a subsidiary of large electronics conglomerate CETC, and historically focused on military electronics (notably radar technology). In the context of this collaboration, Spacety has opened a “Yangtze River Delta” HQ in Hefei, and a satellite communications research institute called Tiandi Information Network (天地信息网络(安徽)研究院), founded in 2018, has taken the lead on the Tianxian project. The first satellite of the constellation, Chaohu-1, is scheduled for launch in Q12022.
Separately, a Beijing-based data analytics company called Zhongke Zhitu (中科星图) has established the operations center for its GEOVIS Digital Earth products in Hefei, and just last week, Galaxy Space, a communications satellite manufacturer, has set up a “Remote Sensing Industry Base” subsidiary in the city as well. Other space upstream and downstream companies are based or have activities in Hefei include NavInfo (satnav software), Piesat (EO data analytics), Ortech (Beidou chips).
The Week in Policy & Events
The Deputy secretary of the Tangshan Municipal Party Committee and mayor of Tangshan Tian Guoliang (田国良) visited Commsat’s Tangshan factory on January 1st, stressing the company’s contribution to the Hebei aerospace industry. Commsat recently rolled out the first 220 kg 10 Gbps broadband comms LEO satellite.
Other News of the Week
Laotian national satellite operator LaoSat won the country’s People’s Army Medal for its role in performing critical services during the Covid-19 pandemic. The satellite was developed as a China-Laos project, with China providing Laos with a satellite, launch, ground infrastructure, training for a team of Laotian engineers, and financing for the project. 
The project has been fairly effective, with more than 100 TV channels being broadcast on the local LaoSat DTH platform (and which would otherwise need to broadcast on foreign satellites), and with certain remote parts of Laos being connected using LaoSat-1. We are now ~halfway through the lifetime of LaoSat-1, and the coming handful of years may start to see increased rumblings about a replacement satellite.
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