Chinese reusable rocket startup secures new funding round

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HELSINKI — Chinese launch firm Deep Blue Aerospace announced A+ round financing April 19, with funding in the Chinese commercial sector apparently on the rise.

The new round was led by CMBC Int’l Holdings, three months after Deep Blue Aerospace raised $31.5 million in A round funding.

The undisclosed funds will go towards the development of the reusable Nebula-1 kerosene-liquid oxygen rocket, the development of the “Thunder” engine series and additive manufacturing processes, the company stated in a press release.

The statement says the funding will help accelerate development of the rocket. However it also reveals that the first orbital launch and recovery is now expected in 2024, whereas earlier statements targeted a first launch in 2023.

Deep Blue Aerospace last year carried out 10-meter and 100-meter level vertical takeoff, vertical landing tests. It is now working towards a kilometer level test using the Nebula-M test article, as well as testing a 20-ton thrust “Thunder-20” engine.

The firm is targeting private launch contracts and a government satellite Internet project and the national space station program as possible revenue streams.

Investment in China’s commercial space sector is expected to double year-on-year in 2022, according to Chinese media Zhidongxi, Global Times reports

Last year 37 Chinese firms reported financing of $992 million, according to the report. Launch startups have already attracted a frenzy of financing early this year.

The most notable is the $200 million announced by Galactic Energy in January, eclipsing the previous Chinese record funding rounds for launch companies.

Deep Blue Aerospace and Galactic Energy are two of a second wave of Chinese launch startups, with a focus on developing reusable launchers. 

Landspace, one of the earliest Chinese launch startups, is currently preparing for the country’s first privately-funded liquid rocket launch attempt.

Meanwhile, cities and provinces are looking to attract space sector companies to boost innovation and economic activity, particularly following national level policy support announcements over the last couple of years. 

Earlier this month Beijing released a series of policy measures to boost construction of a commercial aerospace industrial base in the city’s Daxing district. The move also seeks to attract and support firms, with subsidies of up to 20 million yuan ($3 million) per year.

Elsewhere a space technology industrialization base project in Nansha District of the southern city Guangzhou is expected to be completed and begin operations in August, according to an April 10 report.

The base will host CAS Space, one of a number of launch companies created by Chinese state-owned entities. CAS Space’s first launch, the ZK-1A solid rocket, was earlier reported to be conducted early in 2022.