New Chinese commercial rocket firms move toward maiden launches

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HELSINKI — A number of firms in the Chinese NewSpace sector are taking steps towards debut suborbital and orbital launches, while also attracting new funding. 

Beijing Xinghe Dongli Space Technology Co. Ltd., also known as Galactic Energy, last week carried out a successful 74-second hot fire test of the second stage for its first launch vehicle. The Sept. 26 test also included a separation test of the first and second stage. 

Galactic Energy previously stated that they aim to carry out the maiden launch of the solid propellant ‘Ceres-1’ in March 2020. 

A main satellite and two smaller payloads are booked for the launch from Jiuquan, one of four national launch centers. The company also recently advertised a remaining 79 kilograms of payload.

The launcher will consist of three solid stages with a liquid upper stage.  It is comparable to the Kuaizhou-1A, developed by Chinese defense contractor CASIC, in both appearance and capabilities. 

Established in February 2018, the company is also making progress on an RP-1/liquid oxygen launch vehicle named Pallas-1. It will be capable of launching four metric tons to low Earth orbit or two tons to Sun synchronous orbit. Pallas-1 is not expected to have a test flight before the end of 2022.

Launch firm iSpace performed the first successful orbital launch by a Chinese private firm in July. This followed failed efforts from Landspace and OneSpace

Space Trek suborbital launch imminent

Beijing Xingtu Exploration Technology Co., Ltd., also known as Space Trek, has announced that it will perform a test flight of a suborbital rocket in the near future from a site in northwest China. 

Launch of the 7.6-meter-tall, 1-meter-diameter rocket is expected in October, though few details have been released. The test vehicle will be used for technology verification and carry an undisclosed payload. 

Space Trek last week also gained an unspecified amount of seed funding from Tongfang Venture Capital and Guosen H&S Investments. The funding was said to be worth in the range of ‘tens of millions of yuan’ — or millions of dollars. Part of the money going toward development of the ‘Xingtu-1’ orbital launcher.

Chinese tech news portal 36Kr reports Space Trek CEO Liang Jianjun as stating that the company is aiming to launch a multistage solid rocket by the end of next year.

Another new entrant, Beijing Deep Blue Aerospace Technology Co., Ltd., announced Monday a successful thrust chamber hot test for a kerosene-liquid oxygen engine. 

The test demonstrates a measure of progress towards the previously stated development of Nebula-1 and Nebula-2 light and medium-lift launchers. Founded in 2017, Deep Blue Aerospace is headquartered in Beijing.

The Chinese government opened portions of the space sector to private capital with a policy change in late 2014. A range of companies have since emerged in the launch, small satellite, ground segment and downstream application sectors.

At least 20 Chinese private firms are now understood to developing or manufacturing launch vehicles, rocket engines or related components.

Further support for these Chinese NewSpace actors came with first set of set of rules and regulations to guide the development of commercial launch vehicles in China, issued in June.