“Only one of the three attempts by private aerospace companies to date to get into orbit has been successful.” Xia Dongkun, co-founder of Xinghe Power, said in an interview with Sina Technology that even if successful this time, the rocket has not yet entered the stage of large-scale mass production. On November 5, Star River Power will conduct the fourth attempt by a private space company to enter orbit. China’s private space industry has completed its first five years and is still in its infancy. In June 2015, Blue Arrow Aerospace was established, which kicked off China’s private space industry.
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After SpaceX and NASA launched the Dragon spacecraft into space in May 2020, SpaceX said, “Over the past three years or so, our country has given the green light to private launch vehicles, providing a strong guarantee; “
However, China’s private spaceflight, which is in its infancy, still has a long way to go. “We’re still waiting very anxiously to see when China’s private aerospace companies can come up with high-cost, reliable solutions.” Yang Feng, founder and CEO of Tianyi Research Institute, said in an interview with Sina Technology.
“Money” scenery and difficulties
Wang Jianfei, chief executive officer of Beihang Investment, said in an interview with Sina Technology that commercial aerospace is a very high threshold for entrepreneurship, unlike a person who has an idea that a new business model can start a business, not everyone can build a rocket. For aerospace entrepreneurs, must have a long scientific background, and even said that the rocket system engineering must do this, so as not to take a detour.
“But rockets are not like aeronautical engines or photoreses, they can’t be done by a startup team alone. Rockets are a very high threshold, but not the kind of invincible threshold, as long as the various professional people, such as power, do interface, do structure, do control, do communication of these systems experts together, you can do this thing. Wang Jianfei said.
In addition to the organic combination of relevant talents, policies and market demand have also given birth to the development of private space. Around 2015, the state has issued a number of relevant documents to encourage private enterprises to enter the space sector, breaking the original relatively closed environment. Market demand is also growing rapidly.
Star River Power CEO Liu Baiqi said that the development prospects of private aerospace from market demand. According to the company’s official website, China’s commercial satellite constellation program has a cumulative launch demand of about 178 tons, or about 25 tons per year if the average performance period is seven years.
As of February 2020, the space science and technology group’s official website disclosed that the 2021 Long March rocket carrying only about 5 tons. According to preliminary estimates, there will be a capacity gap of 20 tons in 2021, which will be left to commercial launch new forces including Blue Arrow Aerospace, Zero Space, Star River Power, etc.
Zhang Changwu revealed that as early as 2014 they found that the global satellite launch market for low-orbit satellite launch demand has been very clear, he described the market, “like a lake, by 2020, about 6,000 satellites are seeking to launch.” “
But in front of the broad market, private aerospace still has a long way to go. The problems are mainly concentrated in two aspects: first, the success rate of rocket launch and orbit, and second, mass production.
On October 27, 2018, the three-stage solid carrier rocket “ZhuFin-1” developed by Blue Arrow Aerospace was launched at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. However, the rocket’s first, second and third stages of separation was successful, the rectation shroud was successfully separated, the third stage appeared abnormal, its mounted with a customized microsatellite “Future” failed to enter orbit.
As Xia Dongkun said, if the Star River-powered rocket launch into orbit is successful, it will be the second successful of all four attempts to orbit private space, the overall success rate of the industry will reach 50%. “But it’s not a successful launch, even if we’re going well, it doesn’t prove that we’ve solved all the mass production problems.” Because of the effort to be made in mass production, it may be higher to work with the development of products. Xia Dongkun said.
Previously, The Twin Curve One solid launch vehicle launched by Interstellar Glory in July 2019 was the only one successfully launched by a private space company. But after the successful launch, the rocket product still does not have real-line scale mass production.
This means that after the successful first launch of the rocket, it will take a long time to reach the stage of large-scale mass production, after stability and reliability can be guaranteed, in order to achieve what Yang Feng called “high reliability and low cost” goal.
The influx of investors and China’s “Space X”
On April 20, 2020, at a regular online press conference of the National Development and Reform Commission, it was made clear that information infrastructure was included in the “new infrastructure” and that the satellite Internet was one of the representatives of the communication network infrastructure.
Long before the policy, investors have begun to lay out; Elon Musk and His SpaceX, in particular, are more likely to engage in building China’s “Space X” at a time when each launch test has attracted worldwide attention.
At the 2019 and 2020 sessions, Xiaomi Group founder and chairman Lei Jun submitted proposals for private spaceflight twice in a row, and called for the development of satellite Internet to be incorporated into China’s 14th Five-Year Plan. In addition to the proposal, Lei Jun and Shunwei Capital have long been in the field of layout, Interstellar Glory, Galaxy Space and Deep Blue Space have received Shunjun Capital investment.
In August 2020, Star Glory announced the completion of nearly 1.2 billion yuan B round of financing, which set a single round of financing record in the domestic private space sector, and a month later, Blue Arrow Aerospace announced the completion of 1.2 billion yuan of C-plus financing. Tianbing Technology also subsequently announced the completion of hundreds of millions of yuan A round of financing.
“In the long run, China needs its own Space X.” Li Zhu, founding partner of the Inno Angel Fund, said in an interview with Sina Technology that there is a growing demand for communications, remote sensing and navigation. He believes that Space X has the support of the national level, rapid development, China’s private space will certainly have to work closely with the national strategy to become stronger and bigger.
Wang Also said China needs to have its own SpaceX in terms of the development of China’s space industry and future international competition. “At the moment, the space sector is still dominated by the national team, but over time, private companies will slowly become the dominant force, which is what the market needs.” Mr Wang said there was a real need for private rocket companies in China, such as Space X, to boost national pride.
At the same time, private enterprises on the use of market resources efficiency and cost reduction has a stronger demand, so as to be able to live relatively closed space market. In addition, China must have a company that can compete with Space X in its core technology to ensure that it is not left behind and that it is a need for future international competition.
Both Wang Jianfei and Xia Dongkun believe that the influx of capital is a good thing for the industry and addresses the industry’s capital needs. However, Wang Jianfei believes that the industry needs different capital at different stages. In the early stages, venture capital is more helpful to aerospace start-ups, and in addition to capital, they can bring experience in business management to these technical talents.
With the development of the industry, private aerospace will need more industrial capital, such as the national guidance fund, the civil-military integration industry fund, as well as including the local government guidance fund, to bring funds outside the supply chain, infrastructure resources and system resources support.
“Investors who come in don’t really understand the industry very well, but at least there’s a lot of enthusiasm.” Yang Feng told Sina Technology that this is a double advance for the industry and investors. At first, the attitude of investors to the industry is not understanding, do not believe, has now become very enthusiastic, just do not understand. “I hope the heat continues.”
It will take another 3-5 years for the industry to get out
The whole industry, including private satellite companies, for private rocket waiting more and more urgent. “We haven’t seen cheap and reliable private rockets yet, and China’s private rockets need a little more time, and we’re waiting.” Yang Feng said demand will be strong in the future, but the success rate of many private space companies in China is not particularly high.
“It’s going to take another three to five years for private aerospace to do better.” Xia Dongkun told Sina Science and Technology, private aerospace is a typical “three high one long” industry, that is, “high risk, high investment, high return” and “long cycle.”
Wang Jianfei told Sina Technology, and Internet enterprises are not the same, and system integration-related technology enterprises must step by step, such as rockets, components to one production, and then connected, even if a company to raise 10 billion yuan, it still takes 10 months to build a rocket, which also means that the return cycle will become particularly long.
This is also related to the development law of the investment industry. From the Internet to the mobile Internet era belongs to the era of business models and application innovation, relying on demographic dividends, a good idea can use model innovation to obtain a large number of users. But technological innovation requires a long period of investment in capital and manpower, in order to get a return, may also become a bamboo basket water. “But the core competitiveness of the country in the future lies in technological innovation projects.” “If a business grows up, it will be at least 10 years, ” Wang said. “
After the first five years, private spaceflight will take another five years. Xia Dongkun believes that private aerospace should rely on early high investment, small steps to run through the verification period, research and development should be from small to large and then difficult to do, otherwise it is difficult to survive. “Private aerospace should realize self-blooding as soon as possible in order to reduce the risks in the development process, the risks of development, the risks of dependence on funds and so on.” Xia Dongkun said.
Yang Feng believes that China’s private space industry, in public opinion, funds have been well-equipped, the most lacking is more in-depth participation in the development of China’s space, to get more mainstream tasks, so as to develop more quickly.
Capital inflows, policy support, the first five years have passed, the next five years, can we see China’s Space X?