HELSINKI — Beijing’s municipal government intends to support commercial aerospace and satellite constellations and applications in a plan to promote industries of the future.

The city will seek to incubate and promote innovation in areas including development and production of reusable rockets and crewed suborbital flight. Software-defined satellites, flat-panel satellites, integrated satellite constellations, remote sensing and ground segments are also priority areas.

The General office of the Beijing municipal government issued a notice Sept. 8 on the “Implementation Plan of Beijing Municipality for Promoting the Innovative Development of Future Industries.” The move follows national-level directives and priorities released over the past two years.

The notice specifies areas of focus under the broad themed industries. These are information (including 6G, AI and quantum information), manufacturing, health, energy, materials and space.

The commercial space plan calls for the acceleration of the development and production of medium and large commercial rockets, 3D printed rockets, high-thrust, reusable full-flow staged combustion cycle rocket engines, and recoverable commercial payload spacecraft.

It targets breakthroughs in key technologies including the vertical recovery of rockets, suborbital crewed flight, and cleaning up space debris. There will also be a focus on promoting projects including rocket engines and related key components, the construction of generalized and standardized testing platforms.

The satellite-related section states intent to boost support for communication satellites, flat-panel satellites, software-defined satellites and standardized satellite platforms. Other areas of focus are laser communications, high-precision radar and optical imaging and low-cost phased array antennas. Noted objectives include promoting the construction of high-resolution, rapid revisit, full-coverage optical and radar remote sensing constellations, low-orbit Internet of Things satellites and low-orbit navigation enhancement constellations.

The efforts appear to line up with China’s previously announced national plan for a space-ground integrated information network, or SGIIN. This seeks to create an integrated system which combines communications, remote sensing, navigation, weather and other satellite capabilities.

Beijing hosts a cluster of huge, established state-owned and emerging commercial companies. Rocket companies are centered in the south of the city, with satellite-related enterprises gravitating to its north. Beijing in 2021 laid out measures for the development of a satellite internet industry layout, translated loosely as “south rockets, north satellites.”

Landspace, iSpace, Galactic Energy, Deep Blue Aerospace and Space Pioneer are a number of the leading commercial launch startups with headquarters or other facilities in the city. GalaxySpace, Minospace, Smart Satellite and HEAD Aerospace are among the satellite-focused commercial companies, variously engaged in satellite communications, small satellite manufacturing, synthetic aperture radar and other remote sensing satellites. 

Many of these companies are already engaged in activities outlined in the Beijing notice, including developing reusable rockets, remote sensing capabilities and flat-panel satellites. Meanwhile China’s human spaceflight agency has issued a call for commercial cargo proposals.

Beijing’s policy notice follows directions from a national plan. China’s central government announced plans to identify and incubate industries of the future in March 2021 with the draft outline of its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) and long-range objectives through the year 2035. 

The Beijing municipal government’s new policy announcement is a manifestation of those overarching goals being implemented. Provincial and municipal governments enact policies and initiatives set by the central plan, while tailoring these to local conditions and priorities.

They are tasked with adapting and implementing the national plan to suit local conditions, while adhering to the overall goals set by the central government.

The notice is general. It outlines areas of focus, but measures, such as those that may promote research and development or provide incentives or other policy support, have not yet been announced.

China’s commercial launch companies are experiencing a breakthrough year in 2023, following the opening of portions of the space sector to private capital in 2014. CAS Space,Galactic Energy, iSpace, Expace, Space Pioneer and Landspace have all reached orbit so far in 2023. 

These include first commercial liquid propellant launch successes, achieved by Space Pioneer and Landspace. GalaxySpace meanwhile launched its first stackable, flat-panel communications satellite in July.

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...