HELSINKI — Beijing’s municipal government has released an action plan to foster an innovative commercial space ecosystem in the city over the next five years.

The Beijing Action Plan for Accelerating the Innovation and Development of the Commercial Space Industry (2024-2028) includes 18 policy measures.

The action plan focuses on mapping the commercial aerospace industry chain and supporting cutting-edge research and development. It includes enhancing development guarantees, and fostering a high-quality industrial ecosystem.

It will also promote cross-border technology integration to foster the development of internationally competitive innovative enterprises and industry clusters.

Initiatives include establishing “Beijing Rocket Street,” including a reusable rocket technology innovation center to assist breakthroughs in related key technologies. Construction of the facility will begin in April and be completed in 2025.

Measurable goals include attracting and nurturing more than 100 high-tech enterprises, over 50 specialized and innovative companies, and at least five so-called unicorn companies. The latter refers to a company with a valuation of at least $1 billion.

The action plan was announced at the Conference on the High-Quality Development of Beijing’s Commercial Space Industry Feb. 3.

Beijing Economic and Technological Development Area, situated in Yizhuang, in the southeast of the city, already hosts more than 70 percent of China’s commercial launch companies, according to China News Service.

By 2028, Yizhuang aims to be a leader in reusable rocket technology. It also wants to develop a commercial aerospace industry cluster worth 50 billion yuan ($7 billion).

Beijing also signed strategic cooperation agreements with companies representing the newly-developed Hainan Commercial Launch Site and Haiyang spaceport in Shandong province. The latter facilitates China’s sea launches. The moves are to help assure regular launches and promote inter-regional industrial collaborative development.

Regional space development plans

The development follows the Beijing municipal government’s notice of its aim to support commercial aerospace activities in September 2023. The initiative is part of a national plan to promote industries of the future. 

The Shanghai government released an action plan late last year to likewise foster a robust commercial space sector by 2025. That initiative envisions the city achieving an annual output of 50 commercial rockets and 600 commercial satellites by 2025.

Meanwhile Shandong province released its own aerospace industry development plan Feb. 1, outlining ambitious goals for 2030 and 2035. Targets include hosting 300 key aerospace enterprises in the province and establishing 10 distinctive aerospace industrial parks by 2030. Shandong aims to be fully integrated into the national space industry by 2035.

The municipal and provincial plans adhere to the national objectives earlier outlined by the central government. China’s Central Economic Work Conference, held in December in Beijing, identified the commercial space industry as one of several strategic emerging industries to nurture.

China has previously stated its overarching ambition is to make China one of the world’s main aerospace powers by 2030 and become a fully comprehensive space power by 2045.

The Chinese central government first opened up sections of the space sector to private capital in late 2014. Observers see these developments as China’s response to commercial advancements in the U.S.

Last year China’s launch companies outside of the ownership of main space contractor CASC performed 17 launches, with a single failure, out of a total of 67 Chinese orbital launches across 2023. It represents the largest share of activity for Chinese commercial launches for a calendar year so far. It included commercial liquid propellant launchers reaching orbit for the first time.

A series of Chinese state-owned and commercial launch entities are currently developing reusable rockets. These include state-owned CASC, CASIC and CAS Space, and commercial firms Landspace, Space Pioneer, iSpace, Orienspace, Galactic Energy and Deep Blue Aerospace. Some of these have recently conducted low altitude hop tests.

Andrew Jones covers China's space industry for SpaceNews. Andrew has previously lived in China and reported from major space conferences there. Based in Helsinki, Finland, he has written for National Geographic, New Scientist, Smithsonian Magazine, Sky...