Commercial space race: Chinese companies “aiming” at SpaceX

  China News Weekly Reporter/Traveling

  Published in the 1130th issue of "China News Weekly" magazine on March 4, 2024

  Imagine being at the beach, opening the push notification on your mobile phone, and watching the real-time broadcast of local ultraviolet intensity, sea temperature, coastal wind and wave levels and other information to decide whether to sunbathe today.

This scenario is no longer a fantasy.

In the not-too-distant future, where are the rapeseed flowers blooming in Wuyuan and which trees have red leaves in Xiangshan? Such information can be obtained through mobile apps that directly connect to satellites.

  Such services benefit from remote sensing satellites on the low-orbit satellite internet.

On February 3, 11 satellites from Geely's future travel constellation entered the predetermined orbit aboard the Long March 2C carrier rocket, forming part of the world's first commercial communications-navigation-remote sensing integrated constellation. There are currently 20 satellites in orbit. .

According to Geely Holding Group’s plan, the constellation will complete the first phase of network deployment of 72 satellites this year to achieve global real-time data communication services.

  This is just the tip of the iceberg.

This year, some satellites from the "Star Network Project" of the national satellite Internet construction plan will be launched one after another, and it is ultimately planned to form a giant constellation with 13,000 stars within 10 years.

As a satellite carrier, the launch of the rocket is actively preparing for large-scale network launches.

In 2023, a total of 67 rocket launches were completed domestically, second only to the United States and accounting for 30% of the global number of rocket launches, 48 ​​of which were from China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

At the same time, private commercial aerospace has suddenly emerged, accounting for 13 launches. The number of commercial launches, launch share, and launch success rate have all reached record highs.

  While commercial aerospace is experiencing growth, the gap between Chinese companies and the U.S. Space Exploration Technology Company (SpaceX) has not been ignored.

Gu Xingfa, academician of the International Academy of Astronautics and chairman of the China Remote Sensing Committee, told China News Weekly that SpaceX has opened up the international competition for low-orbit satellite Internet in the global commercial aerospace field. It still leads the world in terms of scale.

In the future, China needs to further realize the integration of communications, navigation, and remote sensing, as well as large-area user coverage of satellite services.

"Commercial aerospace is not the commercialization of infrastructure, but the commercialization of services."

"Rolling up" a large rocket with lower cost

  In Yizhuang, Beijing, an area with Ronghua South Road as the core, starting from Dize Road in the west and ending at Hongda Middle Road in the east, is known as the "Rocket Street".

The radius of this area is less than two kilometers, but it is home to several private rocket companies with the highest valuations in the Chinese market.

If successful launch into orbit is used as an indicator, as of last year, five domestic commercial rocket companies have met the standard, namely Interstellar Glory, Galaxy Power, Blue Arrow Aerospace, Tianbing Technology, and China Aerospace.

On January 19, 2024, the reusable vertical take-off and landing recovery verification rocket independently developed by Blue Arrow Aerospace was ignited and lifted off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China, verifying the one-stage vertical return of the Zhuque-3 large liquid oxygen methane reusable rocket. key technologies.


  On January 11 this year, the "Gravity-1" Yaoyi commercial launch vehicle successfully made a test flight in the sea near Haiyang, Shandong Province, sending the three Yunyao-1 weather satellites into the predetermined orbit.

The rocket was independently developed by the commercial rocket company Oriental Space and has set many records such as the world's largest solid launch vehicle with the largest take-off thrust and the world's first all-solid bundled launch vehicle.

Nowadays, Oriental Space has successfully become the sixth company to meet the standard with "Gravity One", and several industry seniors on the same ranking list are "discussing arrows" on Rocket Street.

  "Except for Zhang Changwu, CEO of Blue Arrow Aerospace, who is an investor, the others, like me, are from the national team." When talking about his competitors to China News Weekly, Bu Xiangwei seemed to know everything about them.

He is the co-founder and co-CEO of Oriental Space, and the chief designer and commander-in-chief of "Gravity One".

After graduating with a master's degree in 2010, he joined the First Academy of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (hereinafter referred to as the "First Academy") and participated in the development of the Long March 11 launch vehicle.

In 2020, he jointly established Oriental Space with several founders.

  Liu Baiqi, chairman of Beijing Galaxy Power Aerospace Technology Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as "Galaxy Power"), has also worked in the First Aerospace Academy for 7 years.

He told "China News Weekly" that leaving the national team to "pioneering" business can be called the call of the times.

When he founded Galaxy Power in 2018, the country already had a lot of support for commercial aerospace.

In 2014, the State Council issued the "Guiding Opinions on Innovating Investment and Financing Mechanisms in Key Areas to Encourage Social Investment", which for the first time broke the policy threshold for private capital to participate in commercial aerospace.

In 2015, the National Development and Reform Commission and other departments jointly issued the "National Civilian Space Infrastructure Medium and Long-term Development Plan", which clearly encouraged private enterprises to develop commercial aerospace. Since then, China's aerospace industry has begun to shift from government-led to market-driven. This year is also known as China's commercial space. The first year of space flight.

The first commercial aerospace companies such as Blue Arrow Aerospace and Interstellar Glory were established during this period.

  In June 2020, Oriental Space was established.

In three years, it "rolled" the world's largest solid launch vehicle.

The "Gravity One" development team has carried out a total of 23 large-scale ground tests and more than 1,450 test iterations, most of which will be completed within 2023.

Bu Xiangwei said that the total time he spent on business trips in 2023 will exceed 190 days, which is far less than that of some employees.

  Bu Xiangwei recalled that not only did the experiments require on-site surveillance, but every time a fault was discovered in the experiment, troubleshooting had to be done overnight and all previous production links had to be traversed.

When the "Gravity One" automatic control power system was tested, all the products were ready and there were no problems during the test in Beijing. Once they arrived at the test bench at the Haiyang launch site for the ignition test, they found that the air tightness was not up to standard. This is Fatal failure.

The test bench is an assembly line, and the team is faced with the pressure to withdraw the product after 3 to 5 days. Because it needs to switch to another company's product for testing, the fault must be solved within one day, including taking the product back to the manufacturer. Disassemble and rework.

  "Volume" seems to have become a common technology iteration model.

Bu Xiangwei said that after entering the Oriental Spaceport at the end of September 2023, "Gravity One" has been preparing for launch, mainly involving the final assembly and joint training of the rocket.

Joint training is to conduct matching exercises between the rocket and related facilities at the launch site, including the launch pad.

During the multiple joint training sessions, testing work such as heat protection at the bottom of the launch pad was also interspersed, and a number of rapid iterations of small technologies were carried out to minimize the risk of failure using limited time and resources.

  In the process of "rolling", many problems common to the industry also emerged.

At present, when companies conduct product testing, they are almost all conducted in various locations.

There are many professional institutions on the market that provide testing in vibration experiments, engine commissioning and other aspects. Enterprises must choose qualified institutions and let professionals carry out the operations.

Experimental facilities vary from place to place. For example, for static loading experiments on rockets, workstations may not necessarily be arranged, and the loading capacity may not be suitable for your own rockets, so you can only choose a place repeatedly.

  Fortunately, the national team's experimental resources are highly open, and private companies can go to the national team's experimental sites to conduct experiments.

In Bu Xiangwei's view, what commercial aerospace needs to do is to reduce the cost of mature technologies of some national teams.

There is huge room for innovation in this process.

Enterprises must change the inherent collaboration and supporting model of the national team, change rocket materials and processes, and pursue fully mechanized full-process operations to reduce costs and improve reliability.

The rapid iteration, openness and efficient management concepts unique to commercial aerospace will also feed back to the national team.

The national team undertakes tasks such as basic research and international competition, and meeting the needs of market users is the top priority of commercial aerospace.

  Yang Yuguang, vice chairman of the International Astronautical and Space Transportation Committee, said that commercial aerospace will rely on the spillover of national technology and talents when the overall scale is still small and lacks experience.

For example, in April 2023, the "Dianlong-2" Yao-1 liquid oxygen kerosene rocket launched by Tianbing Technology achieved the successful first flight of a Chinese liquid rocket. It used the Liquid-102 engine developed by the Sixth Academy of Aerospace.

Gu Xingfa believes that after members of the national team founded private enterprises, the introduction of market mechanisms forced innovation, forming a national team with steady and systematic development and a low-cost and high-risk commercial team. The two developed in a coordinated manner to jointly reduce costs and increase efficiency.

  At present, it is recognized in the industry that in order to reduce costs and increase efficiency, companies must fully or partially adopt the path of reusable liquid rockets.

Reusability faces both basic scientific issues and engineering technology issues.

For example, the second-generation "Raptor" liquid oxygen methane engine that sent SpaceX's new launch vehicle "Starship" to space last year has only a 1.3-meter nozzle diameter that can provide 200 tons of thrust.

The "Tianque-12" first-stage rocket engine developed by Blue Arrow Aerospace is the only liquid oxygen methane engine put into use in China. It sent the "Suzaku 2" to space in July last year. Its nozzle diameter is 1.5 meters and the thrust is 80 tons.

Smaller nozzles and greater single-machine thrust mean that more engines can be connected in parallel to obtain greater thrust in a more economical way.

  Bu Xiangwei believes that China can settle for the second best, give up a certain thrust area ratio, first realize the recovery of liquid arrows, and then achieve catch-up in specific indicators through rapid product iteration.

This is also the path that Eastern Space’s “Gravity 2” liquid oxygen and kerosene rocket under development will take in the future.

In January this year, Oriental Space completed nearly 600 million yuan in Series B financing, which will be used for the research and development and production of its self-developed "Force-85" 100-ton liquid oxygen kerosene engine to accelerate the development of "Gravity 2".

  Even if you are obsessed with technical details, rocket launch failure is a common occurrence for military strategists.

After the successful first flight of Interstellar Glory's "Hyperbolic One" in 2019, it experienced three go-around failures in succession, and all satellites on board were lost.

In 2023, Galaxy Power recorded a total of 7 rocket launches, ranking first among private companies that year.

Among them, the "Ceres 1" Yao 11 arrow failed to launch.

The error was reset to zero 23 days after this failure, and the go-around was completed 75 days later.

Liu Baiqi said that before, there was widespread pressure in the industry that launches must be successful. Nowadays, the views on success and failure within and outside the industry have become more rational, and people realize that some occasional failures are unavoidable tuition fees.

This allows the company to objectively and quickly find the reasons after failure, and maintain the courage to fight and rush forward.

On December 10, 2023, the Hyperbolic 2 reusable liquid oxygen methane verification rocket developed by Interstellar Glory Company successfully completed its second flight test mission at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China. This is the first time that China's private aerospace industry has achieved a rocket reuse flight. .


  Gu Xingfa believes that with the support of the market and policies, domestic commercial aerospace has now entered a stage of rapid development, forming a complete industrial chain that is both independent and innovative and in line with international standards, without any link being stuck.

Huang Zhicheng, a senior aerospace technology scholar, told China News Weekly that the initial stage of China's commercial aerospace industry has ended in 2023 and has entered the growth stage this year.

  Gao Enyu, founder, chairman and general manager of Beijing MicroStar Technology Co., Ltd. is a satellite practitioner and has deep feelings about this stage of transformation.

He told China News Weekly that after commercial aerospace was "named" for the first time by the Central Economic Work Conference last year, many astronauts celebrated on their WeChat Moments.

Counting from the "first year", China's commercial aerospace has entered its ninth year, and "pioneering" can no longer be used to describe the industry ecology.

Most enterprises have relatively mature technical directions, and the next main task is to implement them in practice, introduce more technological innovations, reduce costs, increase efficiency, and open up markets.

  "Gravity One" is just the first shot of commercial space launches in 2024. Various companies have numerous launch missions planned this year.

Tianbing Technology's "Dianlong 3" is considered to be the country's first "Falcon 9"-level reusable liquid rocket. It is scheduled to fly for the first time in the middle of the year. If successful, it will greatly shorten the distance with SpaceX.

All major leading companies have launch plans in the second half of the year.

Many interviewees said that in addition to the first rocket, the launch density of active rockets will also continue to increase, and the number of launches throughout the year is likely to break the record again.

Trillion market for downstream applications

  Bu Xiangwei said that there are many practitioners in domestic commercial aerospace in 2020, and it is recognized in the industry that the industry has begun to take shape.

Prior to this, SpaceX's "Falcon 9" liquid oxygen and kerosene rocket had been recycled and reused in 2016, and Interstellar Glory's "Hyperbolic One" had flown into orbit in 2019 as the first domestic commercial launch vehicle to successfully enter orbit. Success, which means "this thing can be done", then it is time to explore the business model.

  At present, the recognized commercial aerospace industry chain can be simply divided into upstream manufacturing, midstream launch, and downstream applications and operations.

Satellites are networking in the sky, providing a large amount of data, achieving global coverage of signals, and building a satellite Internet. This is the most clearly visible profit scenario for commercial aerospace at present.

Among them, low-orbit satellites have attracted the attention of various countries because of their short orbiting period and close to the ground. They can achieve rapid acquisition and transmission of data.

SpaceX announced the "Starlink Project" in 2015 and plans to send 42,000 satellites into low orbit by 2027. Currently, more than 5,200 satellites have been deployed, accounting for more than 50% of the total number of low-orbit satellites in the world. The largest satellite constellation in human history.

In January this year, seven departments including the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the "Implementation Opinions on Promoting Future Industrial Innovation and Development" to incorporate key technologies such as 6G, satellite Internet, and mobile phone direct-connection satellites into new digital infrastructure.

  Gao Enyu once worked in the First Academy of Aerospace and the Fifth Academy of Aerospace, and founded Micro-Nano Starry Sky in 2017.

He recalled that there were already some satellite companies on the market at that time, but former national team members with a professional background like his were still relatively scarce, and the only advantageous resources he relied on were his own technology and experience.

The newly formed company is faced with the challenges of lack of money, few successful cases, and no orders. It needs to face the dilemma of "the R&D cost of a satellite is several million, and the company only raised 10 million in the first round." Break off the flowers on your fingers.

China Aerospace’s space tourism flight return capsule model.


  Micro-Nano Starry Sky’s solution is to slowly iterate and snowball.

In Gao Enyu's view, many former national team founders know what the technical route should be. When the initial funds are not so sufficient, they can only start small and take on the task of manufacturing small satellites of about 10 kilograms.

After continuous technological iteration, the mainstream satellite products developed by Micro-Nano Starry Sky now reach the 500 kilogram level.

  After the successful first flight of "Hyperbolic One", the valuation of Interstellar Glory jumped from 800 million yuan to 1.2 billion yuan.

Bu Xiangwei said that the early financing amount of commercial rocket companies is generally in the order of tens of millions of yuan.

Oriental Space’s first financing was 50 million, which shows that capital in 2020 is more willing to tilt toward commercial aerospace than five years ago.

Although domestic rocket companies are still chasing profit turning points, facts have proven that the commercial aerospace model can be profitable.

In November last year, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on the social platform X that SpaceX’s operating income in the first quarter of that year was US$1.5 billion, making it profitable for the first time.

Musk also predicts that "Starlink" will soon achieve positive cash flow and become SpaceX's largest revenue segment.

  In 2020, China submitted a constellation spectrum application to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) under the United Nations and plans to launch about 13,000 low-orbit satellites, code-named GW.

In 2021, China Satellite Network Group Co., Ltd. was established to be responsible for overall planning of the development of the GW satellite Internet field. The "Star Network Project" was officially established the following year.

In addition, the G60 constellation, led by the Shanghai Municipal Government and known in the industry as the "Chinese version of Starlink", plans to launch about 12,000 low-orbit satellites.

In July 2023, the Long March-2C carrier rocket affiliated to the national team successfully launched a GW test satellite into orbit.

In December of the same year, the first commercial satellite of G60 rolled off the production line at the Shanghai Gesi Aerospace Satellite Digital Factory.

  Gu Xingfa told China News Weekly that satellite applications have three major sectors: First, satellite navigation and positioning, which have been widely used in life.

The second is satellite communication. GW and G60 satellites are both communication satellites. After the "Star Network Project" is matured, communication interconnection can also be achieved in areas such as oceans and mountainous areas that are difficult to reach by base stations.

In August 2023, Huawei released the new Mate60 Pro mobile phone, which can support satellite calls.

In October of the same year, SpaceX launched the "Starlink" direct connection to mobile phones.

Satellite communications will soon be available to the masses.

Third, satellite remote sensing, weather forecasting, land and resources survey, map surveying, etc. all require a large amount of remote sensing data, but these applications still need to be further explored.

  In Liu Baiqi's view, the development of satellite applications represents that after policy and capital, the third driving factor for commercial aerospace development has matured, that is, market demand.

Bu Xiangwei said that after SpaceX released the "Starlink Project", space orbits and satellite frequency bands have become resources that must be seized, which means that satellite launch vehicles and launch sites have become core needs.

Yang Yuguang told China News Weekly that China has sufficient conditions for commercial aerospace development, that is, it has both technical feasibility and large-scale demand in downstream applications.

  Liu Baiqi did a simple calculation. Assuming that the country launches 10,000 satellites, the current domestic average cost of low-orbit communication satellites is 30 million yuan, and the hardware investment has exceeded 100 billion yuan.

Judging from the industry's empirical "10x theory", the application market size formed by satellites is usually more than 10 times the hardware investment, so downstream applications can easily achieve a "trillion-level market size."

The "Special Research Report on Development Trends of China's Commercial Aerospace Industry" released by iiMedia Consulting in March 2022 predicts that the scale of China's commercial aerospace industry will exceed 2.3 trillion yuan in 2024.

In February 2023, Taibo Think Tank released the "Research Report on China's Commercial Aerospace Industry" stating that this number will reach 2.8 trillion yuan by 2025.

  At present, the market space has not been fully released.

For example, Gu Xingfa said that there is no ground resolution limit for civilian remote sensing data in the United States. The commonly used resolution of Google Maps is 0.27 meters, and the highest level 22 is less than 0.07 meters.

However, the resolution of domestic civilian remote sensing satellites is limited to 0.5 meters, and policies in various aspects such as data sharing are not yet complete.

Therefore, on the premise of effectively safeguarding national security, it is necessary to establish policies and measures to connect the market.

Gao Enyu believes that considering that the current commercial aerospace supply chain is weak, upstream and downstream suppliers and service providers are still dominated by enterprises within the system, with a limited number and insufficient competition, a clear market share quantification for civilian data can be given, and remote sensing satellites can be gradually liberalized Resolution limitations.

  "The transformation of satellite data into services is still a weak point." Gu Xingfa said.

He described the scale of the current industrial chain as a dumbbell, with upstream manufacturing and downstream applications at both ends. The service transformation in the middle is weak, which limits the development of downstream applications.

Nowadays, more of the commercial aerospace industry is rockets, launch pads and satellites. This shows that the raw materials needed for development are available, but to fully realize their commercial value, while the basic industrial chain represented by rockets and satellites is formed, it is also necessary to We should simultaneously build an information value-added service industry chain such as satellite data popularization, release downstream market space, and change the dumbbell shape into a trumpet shape.

“Don’t call me ‘Chinese Musk’”

  The "involution" of commercial aerospace is largely due to chasing the pace of demand.

Bu Xiangwei said that the industry believes that China will usher in high-density launches of satellites in 2026.

For commercial aerospace companies, the biggest test is whether they can come up with rockets with stronger carrying capacity and lower cost at this point in time.

Therefore, all major rocket companies currently have a feeling of "catch up on homework" before the exam.

If you don't "roll", you will have no place in the market in the future.

  The G60 industrial base located in Songjiang, Shanghai plans to launch and operate at least 108 satellites in 2024, provide preliminary commercial services, and build a complete industrial chain to participate in global competition by 2027, with a production capacity of 300 satellites per year.

As a competing product of "Starlink", the total number of G60 satellites reaches 12,000, covering the world's broadband network needs.

Including GW, China will send a total of more than 25,000 satellites into the sky within 10 years, eventually forming China's own complete satellite Internet.

Judging from the number of satellites already in the sky, the "Star Network Project" lags behind the "Star Link".

  In addition, according to ITU regulations, satellite frequencies and orbits are given priority in the order of application, that is, first come, first served.

SpaceX has applied for 42,000 satellites. According to the ITU official website, the total capacity of low-orbit satellites is about 60,000. Currently, the number applied for by various countries has exceeded 70,000.

The application is not settled once and for all. If the launch quantity requirements are not completed within the specified time, it will be deemed to have given up the right to use the orbit.

In other words, for the "Star Network Project" to be fully deployed within the next 10 years, an average of at least 1,300 satellites must be launched every year.

Many interviewees said that there is still a big gap in the country's current launch capabilities.

  In order to speed up the "Star Network Project", the construction of the Hainan Commercial Satellite Launch Site started in July 2022. This is the fifth launch site built in China after Jiuquan, Taiyuan, Xichang and Wenchang, and it is also the country's first commercial space launch site. .

At present, the No. 1 launch station has been completed. In the first half of 2024, the Hainan Commercial Satellite Launch Site will complete the first launch of the rocket, and is expected to achieve regular launches within the year.

When fully completed, it will have a capacity of 32 rounds per year.

Liu Baiqi pointed out that if we aim at future launch needs, the current launch capacity is insufficient, but the current launch volume has not yet risen.

Transmission volume and transmission demand are developing simultaneously, and future transmission capacity will not become a limiting factor for development.

  Disparities in other aspects must also be faced squarely.

Gao Enyu said that although domestic commercial aerospace is developing rapidly, SpaceX moves faster.

Taking liquid reusable rockets as an example, the arrow types that have been successfully put into orbit in China are still disposable consumer goods, but the "Falcon 9" has achieved a 100% success rate in 61 launches and recoveries throughout 2022.

At present, domestic reusable rocket technology is still in its infancy.

In December 2023, Interstellar Glory's "Hyperbolic 2" verification rocket conducted its second flight test at China's Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and successfully completed a "grasshopper jump" at a height of 340 meters.

Blue Arrow Aerospace's "Suzaku-3" VTVL-1 reusable vertical take-off and landing recovery rocket also completed similar verification in January this year.

  Liu Baiqi used a water cup as an arrow body to demonstrate the recycling verification process.

"Grasshopper jump" is the first stage of verification, which refers to the vertical take-off and landing of a rocket. For example, the current domestic 100-meter vertical take-off and landing experiment. During the process, the rocket engine is always on, and it slowly lifts off and then lands, just like holding a hand. The water glass in his hand makes it move vertically back and forth.

The second stage is still taking off and landing vertically, but you have to hit it higher, just like throwing the cup in your hand very high, and then trying to catch it.

The third stage is to completely simulate the process of the rocket entering and exiting the atmosphere and then returning.

The country is still in the "can't leave the cup" stage, and there are at least two years left before the final goal.

The Falcon 9 completed the third phase in 2016. This is the most obvious gap.

In the core key technology field of reusability, the gap between China and SpaceX can be up to 10 years.

  Bu Xiangwei pointed out that SpaceX had already gone very far when other companies had not yet formed capabilities.

The thin-walled structural design of the "Starship" liquid fuel tank is of a very high level, and the mass coefficient can reach 4% to 6%. The conventional mass coefficient in China is 7%, which is only 1%, which can save several tons of baggage.

Yang Yuguang believes that in the exploration of cost reduction, efficiency improvement, and large-scale production, the country's overall technological and technological level plays a decisive role.

"Starship" uses a 304 stainless steel cast rocket body. The material is available in every country, but being able to use such cheap materials to create such a huge and strong complete rocket shows that SpaceX already has strong design and processing capabilities.

  In addition, the profit model of commercial aerospace still needs further research.

Huang Zhicheng said that China's relatively powerful private enterprises still have a wait-and-see attitude towards investment in space development and commercial aerospace fields.

Globally, there is currently no private commercial aerospace company listed on the market.

Difficulties in listing mean difficulties in making profits.

The main reason for SpaceX's profitability is the feedback from "Starlink", which also reflects the importance of closed business loop.

  As a member of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Liu Baiqi wrote a "Proposal on Increasing Support for IPO Financing of Commercial Aerospace Enterprises" this year.

He said that requiring aerospace companies, a high-tech, high-investment, high-risk, high-return, long-cycle industry, to make profits in a short period of time before they can enter the capital market will be detrimental to the rapid development of the industry.

Listing companies is an effective way to solve funding problems, so he called in his proposal for the government to further introduce policies to support the listing of commercial aerospace companies.

  Many interviewees said that although China's aerospace industry has many shortcomings compared to SpaceX, it also has potential advantages.

China's aerospace industry has many years of accumulation and a complete system, covering many fields such as launch vehicles, space stations, lunar landings, and satellite Internet.

However, SpaceX is subject to orders from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), making it difficult to achieve balanced development in all aspects.

Huang Zhicheng pointed out that although China does not have a leading company like SpaceX, it may evolve a unique development path thanks to a large number of companies and actively cooperating local governments.

In his view, commercial aerospace participants include national teams and commercial teams, and higher-level departments are needed to coordinate and integrate the two.

  On February 3, the Beijing Commercial Aerospace Industry High-Quality Development Conference was held in Yizhuang, and it was proposed that a 50 billion-level commercial aerospace industry cluster would be formed in Yizhuang by 2028.

The conference officially announced the "Beijing Rocket Street Common Scientific Research and Production Base Project", which will start construction in April this year and be officially put into use in 2025.

Huang Zhicheng said that China has moved very fast from being known as "Rocket Street" to a veritable "Beijing Rocket Street".

  SpaceX conducted another "Starlink" mission on February 16, Beijing time. This mission sent 22 low-orbit Internet satellites into orbit, including three launches within 24 hours, one of which was the "Falcon 9" "The 300th flight of the rocket.

Its first-stage rocket returned to Earth eight minutes after launch and landed vertically on an unmanned ship in the Pacific Ocean.

The name of this ship is "Of course I still love you", which is based on the famous British writer Iain Banks' "The Gamer" in the "Civilization" series of science fiction works. One of the ships of the advanced civilization in the book is called the name.

  The launch ship carrying "Gravity 1" to complete the sea launch mission is called "Oriental Spaceport".

When asked why the name of the launch ship was so "direct", Bu Xiangwei smiled.

He said that at present, the primary goal of domestic companies is to survive. Even the founders of successful companies are unwilling to discuss who will become China's Musk, because the SpaceX model can only be benchmarked and cannot be imitated. Companies must explore their own The way of living.

"Don't call me 'Chinese Musk', that's not a compliment." Bu Xiangwei waved his hand and said.

  "China News Weekly" Issue 8, 2024

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