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The Dongfang Hour Newsletter - Issue #1

The Dongfang Hour
The Dongfang Hour
Your Weekly China Space Industry Summary, with a touch of eccentricity and some attempts at humor. By Blaine Curcio and Jean Deville.

What's up in Chinese Space this Week?
In this week’s issue covering May 3-9 2021, we discuss the following:
  1. Introduction to the Dongfang Hour Newsletter
  2. China’s Long March 5B first stage re-enters Earth’s atmosphere and (seemingly) lands in the Indian Ocean
  3. Chinese Launch Company JZYJ (九州云箭) Completes Hot Fire Test of Fully Assembled Methalox Engine: the Longyun
  4. China Academy of Sciences Launch Startup CASSPACE announces B+ Funding Round
  5. New Rocket Strategy from OneSpace, and Plans to IPO
  6. China Launches a Triplet of Yaogan 30-08 Military-Use EO Satellites on-board a Long March 2C
  7. Record losses in Q1 2021 for listed company Piesat, which focuses on remote sensing data analytics
  8. Collaboration between Tencent, Expace, and CGSTL for a satellite and Kuaizhou rocket named after Tencent’s very popular video game “Peace Elites” (和平精英)
  9. Galaxy Space and CAICT (中国信息通信研究院) kicked off a number of technology verification tests aiming to validate what looks like 5G backhauling technologies
1) Introduction to the Dongfang Hour Newsletter
Hello and welcome to the first Dongfang Hour Weekly China Space Newsletter! (name pending…) As a supplement to our weekly video/audio news updates (available on YouTube or anywhere fine podcasts are sold), our weekly Newsletter will bring shorter analysis of a larger number of stories from the week that was in Chinese space. For those interested in the corresponding video for this week’s news (including deeper dives on the first four stories below), check it out here or click on the embedded video below.
Long March 5B Rocket Reenters the Atmosphere, JZYJ Tests Their Latest Methalox Engine - Ep 32
Long March 5B Rocket Reenters the Atmosphere, JZYJ Tests Their Latest Methalox Engine - Ep 32
Why the newsletter? Well, every single week, almost without fail, we find that there are the “big 3 or 4” stories of the week, and then about 4-5 more smaller stories. Without wanting to subject our viewers to an hour of Chinese space industry discussion every week, the newsletter format is seen as a happy “medium” (terrible pun), allowing hot-takes on the plethora of activity in the Chinese space sector, every week. 
That being the case, without further ado, the first edition of the Dongfang Hour Weekly China Space Newsletter (name pending!)
2) China’s Long March 5B first stage re-enters Earth’s atmosphere and (seemingly) lands in the Indian Ocean
A couple of weeks ago, China launched a Long March 5B rocket to put into orbit the core module of the Chinese Space Station (see DFH April 26 - May 2). 
The LM-5B is somewhat unusual as it has no upper stage–the core stage delivered the Tianhe module directly to orbit, and for a bit more than a week, was in a rapidly-decaying orbit. Translation–there was, for the first ~⅓ of the month of May, a 23t piece of space junk flying around the earth at some several thousand km per hour. 
While atmospheric reentry is a common thing in the space industry, it is rarer to see it happen to such a big piece of space hardware, and generally, it is a good practice to control the reentry in order to increase its chances of it occurring over the ocean. This rule historically has not always been applied (and there is no actual regulation), and this is currently the case for the LM5B core stage. 
Ultimately, the core stage landed in the Indian Ocean, with apocalyptic scenarios of a NYC leveled by a LM-5B being….greatly exaggerated, to say the least. That said, more interesting was the reaction to this event in Western countries, and the non-reaction in China. Multiple media reports in the West have reported on the event with a doomsday like of feel, with the lack of nuance likely due to the deteriorating Sino-Western relations. On the other hand, none of the mainstream space media in China were discussing the topic before the actual reentry, making this event look like a non-event (although there had been some discussion on Weibo). Chinese officials refuted any wrongdoing:
“It is a common practice around the world for launching vehicles to undergo a natural attenuation of orbital altitude and eventually enter the atmosphere for destruction.
China’s stance on carrying out peaceful use of outer space activities in accordance with international law and international practice is consistent, and we are willing to deepen international communication and cooperation to deal with space debris in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.” - Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying on May 10 2021
Overall, probably the biggest impact of this event was the fact that a lot, lot of people got more interested in space. The media firestorm around the uncontrolled reentry led to lots of space industry personalities being interviewed by mainstream media, and seemed to markedly increase people’s interest in space. More to come in 2022, with multiple LM-5B launches planned.
Further reading: Andrew Jones did a good sum-up after the official reaction from Chinese officials and media (see tweet below). Overall, it seems like the message is: this type of uncontrolled atmospheric reentry is common practice, and China is a victim of US media bias.
Andrew Jones
The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), the designer of the Long March 5B, published an explainer on types of rocket debris. Without directly mentioning the 5B, it says don't worry, things returning from orbit burn up, nothing slams into Earth like "scifi movies" https://t.co/pgfx5cnwFo
3) Launch Company JZYJ (九州云箭) Completes Hot-Fire Test of Fully-Assembled Longyun Methalox Engine
九州云箭“龙云”80吨级液氧甲烷发动机完成整机热试车
Launch startup Jiuzhou Yunjian (JZYJ) announced on Thursday 6 May that they had conducted a hot-fire test of the fully-assembled Longyun engine. The Longyun engine is an 80t thrust gas generator cycle engine that burns liquid methane and liquid oxygen, and one of the two engines designed by JZYJ, the other one being the Lingyun engine which is a 10t thrust methalox engine (and which was the first engine they developed). This is one of the first test firings of the Longyun engine, with likely many more to come to test different levels of thrust and restarting the rocket engine multiple times, two key features for any VTVL reusable rocket.
One technical specification that’s worth mentioning here: JZYJ has developed a torch igniter system, which is the system that triggers combustion when the rocket turbopumps start pumping the oxidizer and fuel into the combustion chamber. Traditionally ignition systems use hypergolic fuels which react spontaneously when in contact, or pyrotechnic charges. The disadvantage suggested by JZYJ is that these systems are not optimized for multiple engine starts. JZYJ has shown videos of the igniter it has developed, which likely uses a mix of liquid methane and oxygen, combined with a mini combustion chamber and a spark-plug. This is also the system that seems to be used by SpaceX for the Raptor engine.
It is also yet unclear which rockets the 80t Longyun engine will power. JZYJ is a engine manufacturing pure-player and doesn’t have rockets of its own. The Longyun engine being optimized for reusability, it is likely to have a cluster-like architecture of at least 5, 7, 9 engines, for the core module, which is suggestive of a fairly big rocket. The article also mentions that the engine is compatible with a 3.35m diameter rocket and 5-engine configuration–it’s probably not a coincidence that that ZQ-2 of Landspace, the Long March-7 of CASC, and other rockets, have a diameter of…..3.35m.
4) CASSPACE announces B+ Funding Round
中科宇航完成6亿元融资,为火箭研制持续助力!_融中财经
On 6 May CASSPACE announced a ~200M B+ round of funding. The announcement also noted that they have raised around RMB 600M in the past year from CAS, Yuexiu Capital, Zhongxin, Hunan Aviation and Aerospace Fund (湖南航空航天基金), etc. The article mentions that CASSPACE will have their first launch in H2 2021 of a solid-fueled rocket, and that their rocket is part of the CAS’s 13th Five-Year Plan Space Science and Technology Projects. The rocket will have a payload to SSO of 1.5 tons, and has already completed a variety of tests. 
CASSPACE will likely benefit from some captive demand of the CAS, but at the same time, it will be difficult to compete with the massive number of other Chinese commercial launch companies for any non-CAS demand. 
And speaking of a crowded commercial launch landscape….
5) New Rocket Strategy for OneSpace, and plans to IPO in 2022
两江新区企业零壹空间筹备明年科创板上市 或将成为中国首只商业火箭股
We heard over the past week in the Chinese media that OneSpace was close to raising new round of funding. This is further evidence of a comeback for the rocket company, which was rumored to be in dire straits after failing the orbital launch attempt of its OSM solid-fueled rocket in 2019. 
As reported in the DFH episode of Feb 1-7, OneSpace raised a round of funding in September 2020, and successfully performed a suborbital launch of an OS-X (6B) rocket in February 2021. The fact that they may be able to raise another round of funding a mere 7-8 months after the previous round shows the renewed attractiveness of the company.
The article was also noteworthy for having shown up on the official website of the Liangjiang New Area of Chongqing. Chongqing is one of China’s megacities (population of 30M people spread over what is actually quite a few different cities in a land area the size of Austria), and the Liangjiang New Area is a major area of emphasis for Chongqing. OneSpace has had a collaboration with Liangjiang for some time, with the nickname for the company’s rockets having been “Liangjiang Star”, and the appearance on the website of Liangjiang seems to indicate further implicit support from the New Area. 
Overall, an interesting development for OneSpace, though in a very crowded launch market, it’s not clear that they will have a very compelling differentiator.
6) China Launches a Triplet of Yaogan 30-08 Military-Use EO Satellites on-board a Long March 2C
一箭多星发射成功!长二丙继续为新技术“探路”
On 7 May, a LM-2C launched from Xichang carrying a trio of Yaogan 3satellites, as well as the Tianqi-12 satellite from Guodian Gaoke. The launch is the 4th Yaogan launch of 2021, and is yet another launch for the IoT/EO constellation being developed by Guodian Gaoke. We have discussed at length the process of companies pivoting from operating their own constellations to building satellites (Commsat, Galaxy Space), but in the case of Guodian Gaoke, it’s interesting that they continue to deploy their own constellation.
7) Record losses in Q1 2021 for listed company Piesat, which focuses on remote sensing data analytics
航天宏图(688066.SH)一季度归母净亏损4497.55万元_上市公司股东
Record losses in Q1 2021 for listed company Piesat, at approx. 45 million RMB, although total revenue increased by 317% YoY. The company’s share price (SHA:688066) saw a slight dip last week of approx. 6%, however on Monday 10 May the share price is stable. Overall, it seems that the investment community was expecting Piesat to continue to lose money, as they are in pretty early stages of development.
8) Collaboration between Tencent, Expace, and CGSTL for a satellite and Kuaizhou rocket named after Tencent’s very popular video game “Peace Elites” (和平精英)
Collaboration between Tencent, Expace, and CGSTL for a satellite and Kuaizhou rocket named after Tencent’s very popular video game “Peace Elites” (和平精英). Included putting names of players on the rocket, painting the logo of the game on the rocket, etc. Great to see a company as large as Tencent getting more involved in the space sector, and indeed, we believe that this will be the first of many collaborations between video game companies and companies doing things in space. 
9) Galaxy Space and CAICT (中国信息通信研究院) kicked off a number of technology verification tests aiming to validate what looks like 5G backhauling technologies
Galaxy Space and CAICT (中国信息通信研究院) kicked off a number of technology tests aiming to validate what looks like 5G backhauling technologies (very likely with Galaxy Space’s LEO satellite Galaxy-1 launched previously). The tests seem to be further evidence of Galaxy Space’s emphasis on developing applications for broadband constellations, rather than deploying more satellites of their own constellation.
This was the first edition of the Dongfang Hour Weekly China Space Newsletter. If you’ve made it this far, we thank you for your kind attention, and look forward to seeing you next time! Until then, don’t forget to follow us on YouTube, Twitter, or LinkedIn, or your local podcast source.
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