Chinese rocket maker OneSpace secures $44m in funding; Expace prepares for commercial launch

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HELSINKI — Chinese private launch vehicle maker OneSpace has secured $43.6 million  in Series B financing as the company looks to its first orbital launch near the end of 2018.

The financing was led by CICC Jiatai Equity Fund, followed by FinTrek Capital, with China Merchants Venture Capital, Qianhai Wande Fund and Qianhai Wutong M&A Fund also increasing their investment in the company.

This fourth round of financing takes the total raised since the founding of OneSpace in August 2015 to $116 million.

In May, OneSpace successfully tested its first OS-X suborbital rocket, with the 265-second flight reaching an altitude of around 40 kilometers, which OneSpace describes the as the first launch of a privately designed Chinese commercial rocket. That launch came after iSpace, another Chinese company, lofted a test Hyperbola-1S rocket from Hainan in April.

The next step for OneSpace is launch of an OS-M1 orbital rocket, having last month test fired the first-stage rocket motor. In an email to SpaceNews last month, a company representative said that a payload has been arranged for a first flight, expected for the end of 2018.

The OS-M1 launcher is expected to be able to carry a 205-kilogram payload to 300-kilometer LEO, and 73 kilograms to 800-kilometer Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO).

OneSpace is in competition with another Beijing-based rocket firm, Landspace, for the accolade of first Chinese private company to launch an orbital rocket. Landspace, though apparently primarily focused on developing larger methalox rockets for debut in 2020 and beyond, claims it will launch its three-stage Zhuque-1 (ZQ-1) solid-fueled rocket in the fourth quarter of 2018.

OneSpace will remain focused on solid launchers, with a company press release stating that it aims to be able to achieve production capacity by 2020 of more than 30 OS-M series rockets and 20 or more OS-X series rockets at facilities in Chongqing, southwest China.

The company, “aims to provide launch service to small and micro satellites, providing customers launch service with efficient, reliable and rapid response at a competitive price,” initially with its OS-M1 rockets, though with larger launchers in the series to be developed in the future.

The OS-M4, according to the company website, will be capable of lofting 748 kilograms to a 300-kilometer low Earth orbit and 446 kilograms to an 800-kilometer SSO.

Expace prepares for September Kuaizhou-1A launch

Expace, a nominally private launch provider, is also set for action in the near future. The company, which is a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), the state-owned missile maker and defense giant, announced it will launch its second Kuaizhou-1A solid-fueled rocket before the end of September in a press release last week.

Mission patch for the Kuaizhou-1A Y8 launch of the Centispace-1-S1 satellite (Credit: CASIC)
Mission patch for the Kuaizhou-1A Y8 launch of the Centispace-1-S1 satellite (Credit: CASIC)

The 20-meter-tall, 1.4-meter-diameter Kuaizhou-1A, derived from missile technology, debuted in January 2017 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, carrying three small satellites into orbit.

The second launch will carry the Centispace-1-S1 satellite, about which little has been revealed, into a 700-kilometer SSO, to which the KZ-1A launcher can send a payload of 200 kilograms.

Expace, which in December 2017 secured $180 million in financing from eight unnamed investors, has plans to develop much larger solid-fueled launchers, including the Kuaizhou-11 and -21 launch vehicles. The latter, with a diameter of 4.5 meters according to Chinese state media, will be capable of sending 20-metric tons into a low Earth orbit.

Several contracts have been signed for launch of commercial satellites on Expace’s Kuaizhou-1A and Kuaizhou-11 rockets, with the latter expected to have its debut launch this year, according to previous statements.