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The Dongfang Hour Newsletter - Issue #5

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 issue covering May 31-June 6 2021, we discuss the following:
  1. Launch of Fengyun-4B Meteorology Satellite and some insight on one of China’s oldest space programs
  2. Space Pioneer completes a full system hot test of Tianhuo-11 engine
  3. CAS Space begins R&D on the ZK-2 medium lift solid-fueled launch vehicle and a discussion on CAS Space strategy
  4. More details unveiled on the Tianzhou-2 spacecraft’s cargo
  5. On June 3, the White House issued an Executive Order aiming at prohibiting any US investment into China’s military-industrial complex
  6. CEO of Space Mining startup Origin Space announced that he hoped to complete a first asteroid mining mission by 2025
  7. Strategic cooperation agreement signed between SNAAPRI (陕西空天动力研究院有限公司) and Tang Xing Capital (唐兴资本)
  8. Satellite Herd’s ground station in Zhongwei, Ningxia Province, now to serve SAR EO satellites
  9. Allystar Technology (华大北斗) completed a B round of funding with lead investor being CITIC CPE (a.k.a. CPE源峰)
  10. Joint annoucement of the Agricultural Financial Risk Supervision Platform (农业金融风险监管平台) by Jiage Tiandi (佳格天地) and Huawei
  11. Interesting article about CGSTL’s journey from startup to one of China’s leading commercial space companies
  12. Preview of the upcoming Shenzhou-12 launch, scheduled for later this month
  13. The Canadarm on the ISS suffered some damage – and link with Tianhe core module’s robotic arm
1) Launch of Fengyun-4B Meteorology Satellite
3 June early morning China time saw the successful launch of the Fengyun-4B meteorology satellite from Xichang onboard a Long March-3B. The satellite is the latest in China’s Fengyun constellation, and is the second Fengyun 4 satellite to be launched to geostationary orbit, joining Fengyun-4A, which was launched in 2016. An article published by China Space News gave a deep-dive into FY-4B, noting that it was the first “operational” satellite in the FY-4 constellation (FY-4A is experimental). The FY-4B satellite is equipped with a fast imager (capable of taking true-color snapshots of a 2000x2000km area), radiation imager, interferometric infrared detector, and space environment monitoring instruments. It will have double the resolution of Fengyun-4A.
Fengyun is one of China’s oldest space programs, with the first Fengyun meteorology satellites launched all the way back in 1988 and 1990. Since then, we have seen a total of 18x Fengyun satellites launched into Polar orbit and geostationary orbit – not all of them being in service today. While Fengyun 1 and Fengyun 3 are weather satellites in SSO, Fengyun 2 and Fengyun 4 are geostationary satellites. Noteworthily, one of the earlier Fengyun satellites–Fengyun-1C–was destroyed in an anti-satellite missile test conducted by China in 2007, which created a couple thousand pieces of trackable debris (i.e. golf-ball sized), and an estimated 150,000 pieces of debris in total. 
During the 14th Five-Year Plan Period (2021-2025), China plans to launch one more FY-4 series satellite, likely to GEO, as well as multiple FY-3 satellites to polar orbit. The increase in emphasis on meteorology satellites may in part be due to the Chinese government getting more serious about climate change and environmental conditions more generally. Earlier this year, we also saw the announcement of the “Atmosphere” constellation (大气), which aims to launch multiple satellites for monitoring different atmospheric pollutants.
2) Space Pioneer completes a full system hot test of Tianhuo-11 engine
Space Pioneer (aka Tianbing Aerospace, 天兵科技) announced on 1 June the completion of a full-system hot test of their Tianhuo-11 engine. The engine aims to be the first reusable liquid kerolox engine in China (a claim that we find puzzling, as discussed below), and according to the article, around 80% of the parts for the Tianhuo-11 are 3D printed.
There are some confusing elements about the Tianhuo-11 engine. Its technology resembles that of the previously developed Tianhuo-3 HCP-fueled engine: Tianhuo-11 indeed provides 30 tons of thrust, just like Tianhuo-3, and both are based on an in-house “green” monopropellant technology called HCP (along with two other rocket engines, Tianhuo-1 (1 kN) engine, the Tianhuo-2 (10 kN)). As mentioned in Episode 30, we had some doubts on the ability of such a new company (founded in 2019!) developing such novel technology and with such an aggressive timeline (inaugural launch of the Tianlong-1 in 2022). Now, Tianhuo-11 is mentioned here as a closed-cycle kerolox engine, based on an oxygen-rich preburner. This in itself is a technological feat, oxygen-rich preburners and just more generally closed cycle engines are not a piece of cake, especially for such a young startup.
In the end, we can wonder whether Tianhuo-11 is a separate 30t thrust engine developed by Tianbing, based on a more traditional kerolox technology (although with an innovative closed cycle architecture), or whether it is just a rebranding of the so-called HCP 30t thrust Tianhuo-3 engine, and the HCP monopropellant only concerned starting up the turbopumps all along.
Lastly, it is important to note that Tianhuo-11 cannot be the only reusable kerolox engine in China as claimed in the article, considering that a number of other launch startups such as Galactic Energy or Deep Blue Aerospace have developed kerolox engines for their VTVL rockets as well.
3) CAS Space Begins R&D on the ZK-2 Medium Lift Solid-Fueled Launch Vehicle
Chinese Academy of Sciences launch spinoff CAS Space announced that it had begun the design of its small-to-medium lift solid-fueled rocket, the ZK-2, in an interview with the China Daily on June 4th. Now, the existence of the ZK-2 itself was already public information: CAS Space for example had shown a launch vehicle roadmap at the CCAF conference in October 2020, showing ZK-1, -2, -3 and -4 rockets.
Launch of powerful new carrier rocket expected in 2022 - Chinadaily.com.cn
CAS Space is a company going for a solid + liquid propulsion rocket strategy: the ZK-1 and ZK-2 are solid fueled, and ZK-3 and ZK-4 are liquid-fueled medium lift, VTVL rockets, bearing a resemblance with SpaceX’s Falcon-9/ Falcon-Heavy. Up to now, we knew that CAS Space was mostly absorbed by the preparation of the inaugural launch of its ZK-1 small lift solid fueled rocket in September 2021. The increasing attention that CAS Space is putting on the larger ZK-2 rocket is interesting in itself. The ZK-2 is quite a large rocket, and has a huge payload capacity for a solid-fueled engine.
As mentioned by the China Daily article, this would make it by far the most powerful solid-fueled rocket in operation, the second being Arianespace’s Vega (1.5t into SSO, and future versions C and E at 2t+). This is a significant difference in strategy compared to other Chinese commercial launch companies, which have all selected liquid-fueled propulsion technologies for their small-to-medium lift launch vehicles. It will be interesting to see what market share the solid-fueled ZK-2 will be able to get, and if it will be able to compete with the liquid-fueled reusable rockets from companies like Landspace, iSpace or Galactic Energy.
4) More details unveiled on the Tianzhou-2 spacecraft’s cargo
As we all know, the Tianzhou-2 spacecraft delivered 6.8 tons of cargo to the Chinese space station last week. Over the past few days, more information was unveiled on the Chinese Internet on what was on-board and how the cargo was packaged. 
An article by China Aerospace News mentions that there were 160 packages that were fitted inside. Among them were 2 spacesuits (the indigenous Feitian spacesuits) for EVA activities. These weigh 100+ kg each and took up together 8 of the 40 compartments.
天地运输,稳定可靠!详解“天舟二号”的过人之处
There were also 5 bundles of 20 gas tanks containing precious gasses like oxygen and nitrogen. There were also a dozen water tanks for the use of the taikonauts. Ultimately, the article also mentions food (老干妈?), clothing, cleaning wipes, as well as some scientific payloads and some backup components for the space station. All of these bits and pieces were placed carefully inside the cargo module, taking into account the mass in order to keep the center of gravity of the spacecraft within the predefined limits. 
The Tianzhou-2 spacecraft also carried 3.5 tons of propellant in 8 x 400L tanks, and of which 2.5 tons is meant to supply the space station. The cargo spacecraft also has two large solar arrays connected to lithium batteries; and it is able to provide additional power to the space station if required.
5) White House Executive Order prohibiting any US investment into China’s military-industrial complex
Executive Order on Addressing the Threat from Securities Investments that Finance Certain Companies of the People's Republic of China | The White House
The White House issued an Executive Order on June 3rd named “Addressing the Threat from Securities Investments that Finance Certain Companies of the People’s Republic of China”, aiming at prohibiting any US investment into China’s military-industrial complex. The Executive Order is to a large extent based on Executive Order promulgated by former president Donald Trump in November 2020 (“Addressing the Threat from Securities Investments that Finance Communist Chinese Military Companies”). The initial EO targeted 45 companies, while the new EO of the Biden administration brings the number up to 59. Targeted companies are to a large extent the same, with a majority being in aerospace/space business (CASC, CASIC, AVIC, and related subsidiaries), as well as telecommunications (Huawei, CETC, China telcos, …). An analysis by Bloomberg columnist mentions this move by the Biden Administration as a “middle-of-the-road” move, maintaining the previous administration’s moves on China sanctions, but also taking out previously targeted tech apps like Bytedance’s TikTok and Tencent’s WeChat.
6) CEO of Space Mining startup Origin Space announced that he hoped to complete a first asteroid mining mission by 2025
“太空矿工”苏萌:到2025年,用10亿元采集一颗小行星 - 产业 - 泰伯网 | 科技赋能新经济
CEO of Space Mining startup Origin Space, Su Meng, announced that he hoped to complete a first asteroid mining mission by 2025, according to a piece published by 3SNews. The operation is estimated to cost approximately 1 billion RMB. Su Meng also mentioned plans of industrializing and scaling space mining activities by 2030.
7) Strategic cooperation agreement signed between SNAAPRI (陕西空天动力研究院有限公司) and Tang Xing Capital (唐兴资本)
我院与唐兴资本签订战略合作框架协议
SNAAPRI (陕西空天动力研究院有限公司), a commercial spin-off of leading Chinese aerospace academic institution Northwestern Polytechnical University (西北工业大学), signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Tang Xing Capital (唐兴资本) on June 2nd. SNAAPRI was founded in 2018, and specializes in aerospace propulsion, control, and new materials. Tang Xing Capital is a VC company based in Xi’an, investing mainly in deep tech subverticals (smart manufacturing, AI, etc.).
8) Satellite Herd’s ground station in Zhongwei, Ningxia Province, now to serve SAR EO satellites
驭星速讯丨开始接单了!中卫遥感卫星定标场顺利完成SAR卫星和光学卫星定标试验
Satellite Herd announced that their ground station in Zhongwei, Ningxia Province, was now serving SAR EO satellites. The ground station performed more than 29 tests on nearly 10 satellites, including Gaofen, Jilin-01, and the Haisi-1 satellite. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) is a very hot topic in Chinese EO today, with a handful of satellite manufacturers developing SAR capabilities. As discussed on the DFHour Episode 12, late last year saw the launch of China’s first commercial SAR satellite, Spacety’s Haisi-1.
9) Allystar Technology (华大北斗) completed a B round of funding
华大北斗完成B轮融资:北斗产业获资本青睐 2025年总产值将达一万亿 _ 东方财富网
Shenzhen-based Beidou chips and terminals manufacturer Allystar Technology (华大北斗) completed a B round of funding, with lead investor being CITIC CPE (a.k.a. CPE源峰). This represents the company’s 4th round of funding since it was founded in 2016. Many investors of previous rounds were internet, automobile, or aerospace companies/investment branches.
10) Joint annoucement of the Agricultural Financial Risk Supervision Platform (农业金融风险监管平台) by Jiage Tiandi (佳格天地) and Huawei
华为联合佳格天地发布“农业金融风险监管平台”
Remote sensing analytics startup Jiage Tiandi (佳格天地) and Huawei jointly announce the Agricultural Financial Risk Supervision Platform (农业金融风险监管平台) on June the 3rd. According to the presentation made at Huawei’s Smart Finance Summit 2021 by Zhang Gong, the CEO of Jiage Tiandi, the new platform will combine the remote sensing analytics tools of Jiage Tiandi and Huawei’s advanced cloud computing capabilities (notably the ModelArts AI tools). The objective of the platform will be to improve farmers’ access to credit, bearing a similarity with the 大山雀 digital project announced by Alibaba’s finance subsidiary Ant Group last month, and discussed in the Dongfang Hour Newsletter Issue #4.
11) CGSTL: from startup to one of China’s leading commercial space companies
【破茧成蝶 筑梦航天】记长光卫星工作人员的成长蜕变
Along with portraying CGSTL’s employees, the article recounts the company’s journey from startup to one of China’s leading commercial space companies, with more than 500 employees. An interesting anecdote comes from Wang Xing, one of the company’s early employees and a specialist in optical technology, who tells the story of their first satellite launch in 2016. According to Wang, the company was so short-staffed that he needed to be the security guard for their first satellite, which he accompanied on a 5.5 day, 3,000km trek from Changchun to Jiuquan Launch Center. The article also mentions that CGSTL is now capable of producing 50 satellites per year. 
12) Preview of the upcoming Shenzhou-12 launch, scheduled for later this month
Shenzhou-12 is set to carry 3x Chinese astronauts to the recently-launched Tianhe core module of the Chinese space station, where they will spend around 3 months. The article interviews Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut and the current Director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office. Best line from the interview by far–”there are 16 taikonauts being trained as a backup….including me” (能够具备飞行能力的16名航天员正全程训练做备份,其中也包括我). Given that Yang is 55 years old and hasn’t flown a space mission since 2003, it would be pretty incredible to see him make a last-minute entry to the mission as a backup taikonaut.
Worth noting: in US space history, John Glenn was the third American in space and the first to orbit the Earth in 1962. He flew again in 1998 on-board the Space Shuttle at age… 77.
13) The Canadarm on the ISS suffered some damage
Not China-related necessarily, but we got news this week that the Canadarm on the ISS suffered some damage. As discussed on DFHour Episode 35 among others, the recently-launched Tianhe core module of the Chinese space station also has a robotic arm that was used for docking the recently-launched Tianzhou-2 cargo vessel.
Canadarm2 hit by debris and continues to function - SpaceQ
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 YouTube, Twitter, or LinkedIn, or your local podcast source. 
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