Space Race 2.0: This time, for business, also changed the main character

The era of commercial spaceflight has arrived. The race looks cool, but it’s actually a brutal one, and the firing shots are already ringing. In July 1969, 500 million people around the world witnessed the historic moment on television , when American astronaut Armstrong stepped out of the capsule and walked down a ladder to the surface of the moon, saying the world-famous phrase: “This is a small step for me personally, but a big step for all of humanity.” 」

Von Braun, sitting in the command position of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, weighed the weight of the phrase. Amid the fire and smoke, the Saturn 5 carrier rocket, which he led the development, successfully put the manned Apollo spacecraft into lunar orbit.

He was a space talent who spanned World War II and the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, and was a brilliant author of the space race 1.0 era. He developed the V-2 missile during the Nazi era and is recognized as the father of modern rockets and missiles.

During the Cold War, Braun led the U.S. space national team, which later overtook the Soviet Union. In the decades after his death, the world landscape changed and the arms race in space ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although the moon has no new footprints left by humans, uncle Sam, the defending champion, has begun to figure out how to conquer Mars.

Now, the space platform ushered in a new century duel, a commercial engine-driven space race began.

Elon Musk, who took over the fire, is destined to go down in history. SpaceX, the US space exploration technology company he co-founded, has turned several “impossible” in space flight history into “impossible”.

SpaceX’s space-based Internet project, Starlink, is advancing in an orderly fashion about 500 kilometers above the surface. Before that, Teledesic, Star Generation and Globalstar had invested tens of billions of dollars in satellite Internet construction, all of which failed.

The new story opens with a new story, like Musk’s one-man martial, but a growing number of new commercial space companies are getting tickets: OneWeb in the U.S. and Amazon, and Telesat in Canada are scrambling to lay out their Starlink plans.

The stags are also China, the world’s second-largest economy on the other side of the ocean. Since the 1970s, China’s space flight has sent Oriental Red, Long March, Shenzhou, Jade Rabbit and Tiangong into space. From manned spaceflight to deep space exploration, the main theme of China’s space flight is also undergoing structural changes. Outside the national team, private space flight stepped onto the catwalk in 2015 and poured into the flood of space race 2.0 by participating in the construction of the Chinese version of Starlink.

Space new battle, starting 2015

Musk didn’t start SpaceX with the idea of making money.

In 2001, Musk, who also runs PayPal, talked to friends about “why the United States hasn’t landed on Mars yet.” As he understands it, since humans could land on the moon in 1969, they should have visited Mars in the 21st century.

He went through NASA’s official website and had no plans to land on Mars. Reluctant to him, three trips to Russia to buy intercontinental rockets. It was only before the payment deal that he realized that, while the United States was the world’s largest space reverbecause, space technology had stagnated at cold war levels.

It is urgent to solve the problem of space transportation. So Musk boldly sold Paypal and signed up for SpaceX in 2002 with the money. Its first task is to make advanced launch vehicles and name the series after the Falcon.

The Falcon One has lost three in a row in the first six years. SpaceX has been on the brink of bankruptcy several times because of huge costs. It wasn’t until September 2008 that Falcon I launched from The Marshall Islands’ Guagarin Atoll and successfully entered Earth orbit: the first liquid-fueled launch vehicle ever developed by a private company was born!

Just six months before the rocket’s successful launch, Musk poured $100 million into SpaceX’s account. The Falcon One ran out of almost all of the company’s money, but fortunately it succeeded.

Xie Tao, who has been involved in major national space programs such as the Lunar Exploration Project, met Musk himself for the first time at a summit in April 2014 at Zhongshan Park in Beijing.

He was also working at a space academy at the time, and learned that Musk came to China as Tesla’s CEO, and in order to see the “space maniac” for his own time, he gritted his teeth and paid a high price for tickets, sat in the audience looking forward to it.

He remembers clearly that Musk played an opening video before his speech. See the picture of the “falcon” like a cloud arrow into the sky, and then accurately found the sea recycling platform, landed steadily vertically.

Musk didn’t take the CG animation to fool the crowd. At the end of the year, the “famous scene” that attracted the world’s attention came. Falcon 9 was seen putting 11 communications satellites into orbit, and then relying on vertical take-off and landing technology to land steadily on the first stage of the rocket. The people in front of the screen witnessed the whole process from launch to recovery, which is truly the world’s first.

Space Race 2.0: This time, for business, also changed the main character

The innovative design of starlink satellites and the unique arrangement and stacking of “60 Stars with one arrow” – Starlink’s website

SpaceX always has a bomb shell to throw. In 2015, Musk launched a space-based Internet project called Starlink, which plans to launch 12,000 communications satellites into near-Earth orbit from 2019. The launch mission is carried out by the recyclable, reusable Falcon 9.

In the same year, China officially opened the door to commercial space flight with the launch of Jilin-1 satellite into orbit. Xie Tao also came out of the system and set up his own commercial satellite company, nine-day MSI.

In fact, the industry’s first financing to go back to 2014, private rocket company Qike Aerospace received 8.15 million yuan financing. Since then, Changguang satellite, Blue Arrow Space, Tianyi Research Institute, Zero Space and other private space has been obtained the start-up funds. The reason for the establishment of private commercial space and the participation of private capital in science and engineering projects is due to the open policy of national military-civilian integration, which provides the breeding soil for entrepreneurs with space dreams.

In 2016, the State Council issued the “13th Five-Year Plan for the Development of Strategic Emerging Industries” and the White Paper on China’s Space 2016, which successively proposed “encouraging the participation of private capital in space research and production, vigorously developing commercial space and satellite commercial applications, and improving the government’s mechanism for purchasing space products and services”, which has accelerated the pace of advance in the commercial space field.

3D Information Highway

Now, China’s commercial space has completed its first five-year journey, a group of entrepreneurs entered the same stage with Musk’s practice field, around the commercial space to show their fists. There is no shortage of non-Corbyn talent like Musk.

Xu Ming, who has been on the Internet for 16 years, captured the potential opportunities of commercial spaceflight, stepping away from the cheetah mobile president’s position in 2018 and stepping into the space circuit to create the commercial satellite company Galaxy Space.

Space is a long-term, re-invested industry, and has been closed control. Cross-border difficulties, Xu Ming is not without thought. But he believes in the internet world’s popular phrase that “regulation often means great opportunities”. He conservatively estimates that China’s aerospace industry is worth about 300 billion yuan. To some extent, “space may be China’s last open large-scale industrial system.” 」

Looking at the vast sea of stars through the Hubble telescope was an important pastime for him to ease the pain of his entrepreneurial life, and this telescope suspended in space laid the groundwork for his creation of the Galactic Space, which gradually became the early enlightenment of the concept of “space Internet”.

“The Hubble telescope uses solar power to input information from sensitive devices such as visible light and infrared, and then provides computational functions that eventually output photos to the ground,” Xu said.

If you look at today’s satellite industry with the same logic, it is not difficult to find that “it is no longer the traditional space satellite industry, but another form of computer industry in space.” And this new form, constitute the so-called “space Internet”, is also the direction of the Galaxy space selection.

It is not difficult to interpret the concept of “space Internet”. In short, it was upgraded to 3D mode from a two-dimensional network of the past ground information superhighway. This third dimension is the satellite.

Obviously, Musk has his own wishful thinking about the commercial value of the “space internet.” Otherwise, a 10% stake in Surrey Satellite Technologies would not have been purchased in 2005 to make a forward-looking layout of the satellite industry.

Now, the industry is finally aware of Starlink’s strategic position: it not only initially solves the problem of network coverage in remote areas, providing Internet services to 200 million to 400 million people worldwide, but also installing sensors on them for remote sensing, quantum keys, and precision navigation.

In fact, Starlink has been upgraded to a “new space infrastructure” built from the constellation Satellite. No matter how new players enter the market, there’s no way to get around spaceX. For now, Musk’s space-based Internet project, Starlink, is launching six rounds of “60 Stars at a time” and entering the fast-moving phase.

If nothing else, SpaceX will be the first to offer satellite broadband access to the United States. The future could earn $30 billion a year, or 10 times SpaceX’s revenue from sending satellites and payloads to the International Space Station.

While getting acceleration is crucial in the rush around Starlink, there are no shortcuts to space, only down to earth. And China’s commercial space participants, are trying their best to achieve “zero to one” mileage.

“New National System” VS SpaceX

In 2020, the Chinese version of Starlink plans or will be unveiled. In addition to the space science and technology and aerospace science and technology two major groups announced the “Hongyun” and “Hung Hom” projects have attracted attention, the strength of private satellite enterprises, are also eager to try, eager to hand in the report card.

But Xie Tao bluntly said: “Can do the satellite overall private enterprises, currently no more than 10, can make Internet communications satellites, but very few.” 」

Earlier this year, Galaxy Space launched China’s first low-orbit broadband satellite with a communications capacity of 10Gbps and a 200 kg class. The nine-day MSI, which has the capability base of the Internet of Things satellite platform, has entered the research and development stage of Internet satellite. Other players, either subject to technology, or taking into account factors such as capital and market, are still hesitating and waiting.

Space Race 2.0: This time, for business, also changed the main character

  Galaxy Space’s first star, with its 10Gbps transparent forwarding capability, was launched on January 16 this year with a communications band such as Q/V and Ka.

From narrow-band satellite evolution to broadband satellite, Xie Tao considers that satellite Internet is an inevitable trend. Based on the financial and technical state of private companies, the best posture to embrace the trend can be to use “IT thinking dry space”. Moreover, the technical and technical systems corresponding to narrow-band satellites and broadband satellites are connected. So the nine-day MSI this year has two things to focus on: first, the development of the standard Starlink Internet satellite, and then choose to launch;

Insiders have speculated that in the first three years, satellite manufacturing and launch investment is the largest. Satellite Internet achieves stable global coverage, with typically more than 800 starting stars. “Musk claims to produce six in a day, and if we can make one in three days and produce 100 a year, it’s great.

The bank’s insiders cite the proportion of satellite output, assuming that constellation manufacturing and launch ingress with 100 billion, then the operating market is 200 billion, plus a variety of connecting terminals, and a market size of 700 billion. The industry not only captures the trillion-dollar market, but also realizes the scarcity of orbital resources, as well as the importance of taking the lead and holding the right to speak. China’s commercial space flight has never been so urgent.

But the national conditions determine that “Chinese satellite companies cannot do both satellite manufacturing and launching and satellite operations, as SpaceX did.” Industry insiders infer that the Chinese version of the satellite Internet industry chain will be divided into three major blocks: satellite development enterprises are suppliers, downstream enterprises are terminal applications, the overall design of the system and investment operations by the national team control. “The future development trend of the industry will certainly move towards the direction of the 100 regiments in concert. 」

Therefore, satellite companies are more realistic than the self-proclaimed “Chinese version of SpaceX”, which is positioned as “Huawei in space”. But in any case, space track players will be asked, “What to surpass Musk?” A lot of people know that “there may not be a Musk out of the 100 commercial space founders.” Otherwise, the outside world will not be on the issue of rocket recovery technology and Starlink, “from looking down, to not understanding, to now desperately chasing,” said the founder of a commercial satellite company.

After all, SpaceX is an 18-year-old company. His growth path is the result of incubation at a particular time. China cannot simply compare and refer to it if it wants to compete with it. “It’s not that SpaceX does rockets, then satellites, and finally lands on Mars, and Chinese companies can win,” Xie stressed. 」

Different national conditions, different environment, different development, in order to win in this competition, we need to dig deep into the nature of the problem. In the three major industrial chains of satellites, each single point can be made into a business. The eventual multi-point convergence, the formation of a “new national system”, may be China’s commercial space with horizontal thinking beyond SpaceX vertical development of the shortcut. Further, if the time is right, do not rule out through capital matchmaking or other means, the emergence of one or two private commercial aerospace giants.

Hurry or be steady

“The Chinese version of Starlink will have to wait another three to five years for the large-scale deployment and application of the stage, ” Says Xie Tao. But, at worst, assuming zero launches of the Chinese version of Starlink within five years, 10,000 satellite launches would be the limit even if SpaceX improved launch frequency and efficiency. The remaining 40,000 orbits are an opportunity for Chinese participants.

As for the future revenue and return of the Chinese version of Starlink, Xu Ming is based on the market size of RMB2 trillion in China’s telecommunications industry, and today satellite communications in Europe and the United States account for 2% to 3% of the total communications industry, compared with just 0.0% in China. If we catch up with the level of development in Europe and the United States, it will bring in $450 billion a year in revenue.

Manufacturing costs are one of the factors that commercial satellite companies care about. In the past, space “objects” were dedicated. Take satellites as an example, the satellite orbit series of space rays, temperature difference and so on a series of special space environment, must use a special chip. After seven or eight years of development, space chips have been able to integrate with ground-based chips and automotive systems. Galaxy Aerospace in the development and production of the first star process, some components are used in industrial or automotive-grade products, to ensure that the same function, effectively reduce costs. The head of the company said that it will continue to and domestic component manufacturers, on China’s commercial space satellite components research and development and production, to do new models of exploration.

While the aggressive catch-up attitude of China’s commercial space players is stark, another important factor constraining the Chinese version of Starlink’s take-off is the serious lack of supply capacity for launch vehicles.

Because solid rockets have the advantage of short development cycle and better reliability, space start-up teams generally launch solid rockets first, in order to prove technical strength to the market. However, the solid rocket’s diameter is no more than 3 meters and its low-Earth orbit (LEO) payload is no more than one ton, which means it cannot undertake the task of a medium-sized launch vehicle, which has an absolute advantage in the distribution of constellation satellites.

It is a cruel fact that there is currently no low-cost medium-sized commercial launch vehicle designed for the low-orbit broadband satellite constellation. Almost all satellite launches rely on the national team’s rockets: the Long March and the Clippers. Although the rocket is strong and stable, but the Long March for most of the national mission, commercial rocket fast boat up to “one arrow 6 stars”, undersupply needs to be scheduled to queue. Moreover, domestic launch vehicles range from $20,000 to $30,000 per kilogram, four to five times higher than the Falcon Nine.

Helplessly, commercial satellite enterprises can only take the national team mature rocket to do the integrated design of the star arrow. Turning to the issue of “one arrow multi-star”, Xie Tao pointed out that the number of single launches and satellite launch envelope, rocket launch capability, satellite constellation configuration, etc. are related, can not be mechanized simple comparison. “If you don’t want to label SpaceX’s 60-star arrow, taking the Long March 5 is also achievable, but it’s just a matter of cost.” 」

Xie Tao looks forward to the private rocket company, in the carrying capacity and recyclable technology as soon as possible to make a breakthrough, as soon as possible to develop a low-cost, high-reliability medium-sized launch vehicle. “Only then would it make sense to talk to them about the integration of the Stars and Arrows. 」

Overall, the current stage of satellite technology breakthrough is easier, the challenge of private rocket enterprises is greater. Because the cost of rocket failure is too high, the whole system engineering only ignite steam to see success or failure, and there is no second chance. Compared with satellite companies, rocket companies are more robust, which is the consensus of the industry.

Blue Arrow Space CEO Zhang Changwu is “slow and faster” and the company has been “fast” to go through the detour. In order to shorten the development time of the first rocket, Blue Arrow plans to complete the product in an outsourced and integrated manner, “so that the parts do not have to be all hands-on, the engine can rely on the system’s research institutes to transfer technology.” But the engine deal ended in failure, forcing the Blue Arrows to innovate independently.

Space Race 2.0: This time, for business, also changed the main character

The Reverie Map of the Launch of the Zhu Fin 1 (right) and Zhu Fin 2 (Left) launch vehicle sdevelopmentd by Blue Arrow space flight

Where weak attack where. Zhang Changwu filled the team of technicians to 80%, half of which died with rocket engines. “Private rocket companies are shouldering the heavy responsibility of the development of China’s commercial launch vehicles. Faced with huge market incremental space, the Blue Arrowteam’s technical route is to specialize in reusable liquid oxygenmethane engines, hoping to fill the gap in commercial launch of medium-sized launch vehicles by developing liquid-oxygen methane-liquid rockets. In May last year, Blue Arrows Aerospace’s 80-ton liquid oxygen methane engine, Tianqi, won four full-system tests. If all goes well, the Jucan II rocket will carry the engine and launch this year.

But SpaceX and Blue Origin, the US commercial space company, have also developed the engine steamed by the environmentally friendly economy. Liquid oxygen methane is recognized as the propellant of choice for the next generation of low-cost rockets. If it can be launched before the two companies, the Jucan II could become the first liquid oxygen methane engine-driven launch vehicle.

New Hope for Commercial Space

China’s private commercial space industry has reached two “key firsts”.

In addition to Galaxy Space’s first in-orbit broadband Internet satellite, there is the successful launch of the Hypercurve-1 solid launch vehicle by Star Glory, a commercial rocket company that is also part of the investment. The helm is Peng Xiaobo, a practitioner with more than 20 years of engineering experience in China’s aerospace field, who follows the technical route of “small-step, fast-moving” and is now moving in the direction of a “solid-to-liquid, small-to-large” launch vehicle.

Previously, blue arrow space and zero-year space launch “Jufin 1” and “OS-M” carrier rocket both lost. Although Zhang Changwu firmly believes that Blue Arrow can learn from it, the company’s pace of development will not be affected. But for commercial space, which needs capital support, since the Blue Arrows no longer develop new solid rockets, it is more necessary to self-flagellating and speeding up the development of their liquid rockets.

Currently, the only success story of a reusable rocket is SpaceX’s Falcon 9, which uses liquid oxygen kerosene on its Merlin engine. The future Falcon rocket, which is standard with the Raptor liquid oxygenmethane engine, will be more reusable. Blue Arrows also said there are plans to develop recyclable rockets, but not yet to the beginning.

Unlike the space arms race during the U.S.-Soviet rivalry, the new competition is not just about technology, it’s not just the ability of commercial closure. On the face of it, space business giant SpaceX is at the forefront, and behind it is still a battle of technological power between nations. Whether it’s the FCC simplifying the licensing process for small satellite launches, or the U.S. Air Force and NASA’s support for SpaceX, there’s something behind it.

In the last century’s space arms race, the United States converted military technology into civilian, advanced space technology into commercial products, although a lot of money invested in Apollo, but the follow-up return is also very high. The Soviet Union, on the one hand, flexed its muscles and was mired in an arms race, with little civilian technology. Perhaps we should take history as a mirror, the space race 2.0 era is more complex. It is not enough for China to rely on existing private space flights to play with SpaceX. Fortunately, the degree of opening up and development of science and technology, policies and markets in the past five years is obvious to all, and the acceleration of China’s commercial space flight is imperative.

As Mr Xu put seinifrom: “We tend to overestimate changes in the next two or three years, but underestimate the development of the next 10 years.” You may be disappointed with China’s commercial space flight today, but if you look at the longer dimension, there should be plenty of surprises. What’s more, it’s a game you can’t miss.

Original title: Space Race 2.0: This time, for business, also changed the protagonist’s view of geeks

Source: Geek Park

Author: Charter School