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DFH#17: a turbulence week in US-China relations, hints on a 1km-long space station, big week for launch

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, and with editing by Orbital Gateway Consulting Intern Aurélie Gillet

What's up in Chinese Space this Week?
In this week’s Newsletter Issue #17 covering 23 - 29 August 2021, we discuss the following:
  1. Turbulent week in US-China space relations
  2. Launch updates including LM2C + LM3B launches, and Kuaizhou-1A return to launch
  3. China’s Natural Science Foundation publishes the “Guidelines for the 14th Five-Year Plan first batch of projects”, hints at research on a 1-km long super space station
  4. More SAR Updates, this time from Smart Satellite (北京智星空间)
  5. China’s Mars rover Zhurong has now travelled more than 1000 m
  6. Geespace performs satellite Internet + mobile ground network integration demonstration test in a Lynk & Co (Geely) car
  7. Commercial launch startup Space Pioneer and TT&C company Tianlian sign strategic collaboration agreement
  8. Deep Blue Aerospace hires former commander-in-chief of China’s crewed rocket program Huang Chunping (黄春平)
  9. China expected to complete the JF-22 hypersonic wind tunnel by 2022
  10. The University of Hong Kong and HKATG sign an MoU to collaborate on satellite data applications
  11. BDStar Navigation (北斗星通) subsidiary announces financing round
  12. Commemorative 10, 100, 2000 RMB coins for the Tianwen-1 mission
  13. A Peek into the Early Days of China’s Space Program
1) Turbulent week in US-China space relations
The past week saw the 36th Space Symposium take place in Colorado Springs. On 25 August, there was a head of space agencies panel including NASA administrator Bill Nelson, during which he voiced strong skepticism about any collaboration with China:
“Unfortunately, I believe we’re in a space race with China. I’m speaking on behalf of the United States, for China to be a partner. I’d like China to do with us as a military adversary, like Russia has done … I would like to try to do that. But China is very secretive, and part of a civilian space program is that you’ve got to be transparent.”
We saw the topic of the Space Symposium come up at a press conference in Beijing with Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin, on 25 August. Reacting to comments made by the Head of US Space Command James Dickinson during his speech in Colorado, Wang pointed out that:
“In recent years, the US has openly defined space as a new warfighting domain, put in place an independent space force and space command, and vigorously built up military strength. What the US has done exacerbates the risks of weaponizing space and turning it into a war-fighting domain, and severely threatens the peace and tranquility of space. In this regard, China is deeply concerned”. 
If you’re interested in more US-China space discussion, check out our long-form episode from April 2021 with the Secure World Foundation and Caelus Foundation, where we discuss US perceptions of the Chinese space industry. 
Turbulent Week for US/China Space Relations, 1 km-long Space Station Project, 2 Launches in the Week
2) Launch updates
Last Tuesday, a Long March-2C launched with 3 telecommunications test satellites. Although limited information was available about the launch, the main payloads appear to be the Ronghe Test Satellite-1 and -2 (融合试验卫星01/02星), along with a third satellite being a different type of telecoms test satellite. All three were manufactured by CAST.
On the same day, China launched a Long March 3B carrying a “Communication Technology Verification Satellite n°7” (通信技术试验卫星七号), designed by SAST (Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology). 
Lastly, on August 21, we also saw an announcement from Expace that the company’s Kuaizhou-1A rocket would be returning to flight next month, with two launches planned. The KZ-1A had carried 19 satellites into orbit on 9 consecutive successful flights leading up to September 2020, at which time it failed on its 10th attempt.
Long March 2C with the new 4.2m diameter fairing
Long March 2C with the new 4.2m diameter fairing
3) China’s Natural Science Foundation publishes the “Guidelines for the 14th Five-Year Plan first batch of projects”, hints at research on a 1-km long super space station
This week, we’ve had some hints about China laying the groundwork for a massive 1-km long space station (by comparison, the length of the Tianhe core module ~20m, that of the ISS ~100m).
China’s National Natural Science Foundation (国家自然科学基金委员会) recently published a document named “Guidelines for the 14th Five-Year Plan first batch of projects”, which lists and offers grants for a significant number of priority research projects, including a “Study of the dynamics and the control of a super large space structure assembly” (超大型航天结构空间组装动力学与控制”重大项目指南).
The purpose of such a space station would be to enable long-term stays in space, space resources utilization and advancing space exploration and space sciences. Taking a step back here, if such a station ever does materialize, it will likely be launched in dozens and dozens of launches of a superheavy rocket like the Long March 9!
4) More SAR Updates, this time from Smart Satellite (北京智星空间)
As discussed most recently on Dongfang Hour Episode 45, one of the hottest topics in Chinese commercial space today is Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) EO satellites, with several commercial satellite manufacturers developing the technology. This week, we had SAR updates from Smart Satellite: the company began a first batch of electronic tests & simulations (桌面联试) on their Zhixing-2 X1/X2 satellites, the first two in their “Silk Road" Constellation. Smart Satellite plans to complete acceptance tests by the end of 2021, and launch both satellites in the first half of 2022.
In parallel, the company has been developing and trialing the Shengjing No. 1 (盛景一号) airborne SAR payload on UAVs in May 2021. Earlier this week, it was also reported that Smart Satellite has been discussing collaboration opportunities with fellow Chinese remote sensing satellite operator and service provider 21AT, which (indirectly) operates optical satellites.
Unfolded and retracted model of Zhixing-2 X1 satellite
Unfolded and retracted model of Zhixing-2 X1 satellite
5) China’s Mars rover Zhurong has now travelled over 1000 m
On August 23, China’s Mars rover has exceeded the symbolic figure of 1000 m travelled, interestingly 100 days after the Chinese spacecraft successfully landed on the Red Planet. As mentioned in the previous DFH newsletter edition (#16), Zhurong will power down between mid-September and late October due to the Mars-Earth conjunction during which the Sun will interfere with communications.
6) Geespace performs satellite Internet + mobile ground network integration demonstration test in a Lynk & Co (Geely) car
On August 27, Geespace announced the success of a satellite Internet + mobile ground network integration demonstration test conducted in the city of Dujiangyan, Sichuan Province. The car-mounted satellite Internet terminal, installed on a Lynk & Co car (produced by Geely), enabled high-speed, high-bandwidth, low-latency, safe and reliable communication services. This is a significant step towards enhanced connectivity and IoT!
7) Commercial launch startup Space Pioneer and TT&C company Tianlian sign strategic collaboration agreement
August 26 saw the signing ceremony of a strategic collaboration agreement between commercial launch startup Space Pioneer (aka Tianbing Aerospace) and TT&C company Tianlian. Although not much has been revealed about the agreement, both parties aim at building a space launch and TT&C alliance.
Space Pioneer is a commercial launch company specialised in developing low-cost and green liquid-fuelled rockets, including the Tianlong-1 reusable kerosene-liquid oxygen launch vehicle for which the company raised funding in July this year. Tianlian is a TT&C company funded by the CITIC group which has developed a wide network of TT&C centers in China and abroad.
Space Pioneer and Tianlian signing cooperation agreement
Space Pioneer and Tianlian signing cooperation agreement
8) Deep Blue Aerospace hires former commander-in-chief of China’s crewed rocket program Huang Chunping
A bit of an older piece of news, on August 13th 2021 commercial rocket company Deep Blue Aerospace held a ceremony in Nantong and announced the appointment of former Chinese crewed rocket program commander-in-chief and ex-CALT vice president Huang Chunping (黄春平) as consultant for the company. Huang Chunping’s collaboration with Deep Blue Aerospace is a prime example of former SOE talents benefitting commercial companies, and Huang Chunping’s deep connections in China’s space ecosystem will no doubt be of much use to the Nantong-based launch startup.
9)  China expected to complete the JF-22 hypersonic wind tunnel by 2022
According to a piece by the Global Times this week as well as various reports in Chinese, China is expected to complete the JF-22 hypersonic wind tunnel by 2022. The JF-22 is the culmination of 10+ years initiative to equip the country with experimental means for hypersonic aerodynamics. The first such wind tunnel was the JF-12, completed in 2012 and reportedly able to reach Mach 5-9, while the new JF-22 would be able to reach up to Mach 30, making it one of the most advanced hypersonic wind tunnels in the world.
The JF series of hypersonic wind tunnels is reported to serve China’s civil hypersonic transportation projects, as well as military hypersonic projects.
10) The University of Hong Kong and HKATG sign an MoU to collaborate on satellite data applications
Hong Kong-based commercial space startup Hong Kong Aerospace Science & Technology Group (HKATG) signed an MoU with the University of Hong Kong which calls for conducting scientific research on earth observation, carbon neutrality initiatives, and sustainable urban development. HKATG has picked up some momentum in recent months with a couple of MoUs, and rumors in Hong Kong have suggested a possible SPAC-like IPO plan in the future.
11) BDStar Navigation (北斗星通) subsidiary announces financing round
BDStar Navigation (北斗星通) subsidiary BeiDou Intelligent & Connected Vehicle Company (BICV, 北斗智联) announced an RMB 50M round of funding from Suqian Capital. BICV manufactures, among other things, electronics for vehicles (tablets, instruments, vehicle antennas), as well as “intelligent car” software. Parent company BDStar Navigation is a major manufacturer of BeiDou-related hardware. The funding round came from a governmental fund associated with Suqian City, Jiangsu Province, the latest example of city government investing into space or related technologies.
12) Commemorative 10, 100, 2000 RMB coins for the Tianwen-1 mission
The People’s Bank of China announced plans to issue a series of gold and silver coins commemorating the Tianwen-1 mission. The set includes 3 coins, 2 gold and 1 silver coin, all of which are legal tender in the PRC. The two gold coins are 8 grams and a whopping 150 grams (the latter being worth ~US$8,700/HK$68,000), and the silver coin is 30 grams. Denominations are 100 RMB, 2000 RMB, and 10 RMB, respectively. 
13) A Peek into the Early Days of China’s Space Program
Courtesy of Satellite Herd’s official WeChat account, an article about the earliest days of China’s space program. The article is largely an interview with Wang Chunhe, a 50-year veteran of China’s space industry. One of the first formal meetings of China’s space industry took place in a hospital canteen in October 1956, where Marshal Nie Rongzhen announced the start of China’s space industry. The meeting also led to the establishment of the Fifth Research Institute of the Ministry of National Defense, of which Qian Xuesen served as the first Dean. The article also dives into the history of Sino-Russian (or at the time, Soviet) space relations.
This has been another episode of the Dongfang Hour China Aero/Space News Roundup. 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 YouTubeTwitterInstagram or LinkedIn, or your local podcast source.
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