HELSINKI — A Shanghai government initiative aims to foster a robust commercial space ecosystem including a range of satellites, launch vehicles and related applications and infrastructure.

The “Shanghai Action Plan to Promote Commercial Aerospace Development and Create a Space Information Industry Highland (2023-2025)” was published in a notice by the General Office of the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government Nov. 20.

The initiative envisions building capacity for an annual output of 50 commercial rockets and 600 commercial satellites by 2025.

The plan notes the development of new generation medium and large launch vehicles, as well as intelligent terminals. The plan also aims to strengthen the development of integrated communications, navigation and remote sensing satellite technologies. 

A policy infographic released Nov. 23 states that space transportation plans include the new Long March 6C kerolox rocket developed by state-owned SAST. The rocket could have a debut launch from Taiyuan before the end of the year. Methane-liquid oxygen and reusability are also noted as key technologies requiring breakthroughs.

The plan aims to build a space information industry worth more than 200 billion yuan ($28.2 billion) by 2025. As with Beijing, the city wants to create dedicated satellite and rocket hubs. 

The comprehensive initiative contributes to the wider, national goal of making China a “powerful aerospace country.” That goal was laid out in discourse from Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Key tasks for the initiative include strengthening basic capabilities in launch, satellite manufacturing and the ground segment. The plan also calls for innovation in core technologies related to the above and constellation network architecture, and promoting large-scale and innovative applications. The plan also highlights digital and intelligent manufacturing, along with direct mobile phone-to-satellite connections.

The Shanghai government will adapt policies to attract and foster related high-end industry and talent, according to the announcement. This includes creating industrial funds and improving related industry support policies and cultivating 10 key commercial aerospace enterprises. It will also support a group of private “specialized, special and innovative” enterprises. 

Constellations and competition

Overall the plan seeks to create a robust commercial aerospace sector by integrating technologies and applications across various domains, and developing new models and patterns for technology-driven growth. Shanghai hopes the results will benefit governance, its economy, everyday life, and boost the city’s role in the national and global space industry. Collaboration, resource optimization, and talent cultivation play key roles in achieving these objectives.

The Shanghai commercial space ecosystem plan also mentions the Yangtze river delta region in terms of building a space ecosystem and supply chain. Launch companies Landspace (Huzhou) and Deep Blue Aerospace (Nantong) have facilities located within the region.

Earlier this year the city backed a broadband megaconstellation project known as “G60 Starlink,” centered in Shanghai’s Songjiang District. The initial phase envisions 1,296 satellites and more than 12,000 in orbit once completed. 

Shanghai’s action plan will likely face challenges in the form competing domestic space startups and hubs elsewhere, particularly in the increasingly crowded launch and satellite manufacturing sectors. Constellation plans may also face policy and regulatory hurdles.

It will also face competition from the likes of ASPACE, a satellite manufacturer and HKATG subsidiary. ASPACE is seeking to leverage its location in Hong Kong-based and related regulatory and trading advantages. Last month it signed a major deal with Saudi Arabia.

Commercial clusters

Shanghai’s government previously released guidelines on promoting its spatial information industry and a plan to boost the construction of new infrastructure, including commercial satellite constellations. 

Beijing’s municipal government issued its own plan to support commercial aerospace and satellite constellations and applications in September. The move is tied to promoting industries of the future.

Both policy initiatives follow plans and objectives defined at the national level. 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. 

Beijing and Shanghai are the hubs of China’s traditional space sector and now also host commercial clusters since China opened portions of its space sector to private capital in 2014. This policy shift has resulted in the emergence of hundreds of companies engaged in launch, satellite manufacture and applications, ground stations and more. 

Commercial space clusters have emerged in places including Wuhan, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing and more.

China’s commercial launch companies are experiencing a breakthrough year in 2023. CAS Space, Galactic Energy, iSpace, Expace, Space Pioneer and Landspace have all reached orbit so far in 2023. This includes the launches of the first commercial liquid propellant launchers, the methalox Zhuque-2 and kerolox Tianlong-2.

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...