Issue #2(28) 2021 Specials

China’s ascending commercial space sector

James Vaughan
James Vaughan
Blaine Curcio Orbital Gateway Consulting & Euroconsult, Hong Kong

The 2020s have already proved to be an unprecedented decade in many ways. The first 16 months brought a global pandemic, economic changes, progressive digitisation and, oddly enough, increased interest in the space sector. The western space sector has seen rapid advancements during this time but, in many ways, the Chinese space sector has grown even more rapidly. Here, the author examines the story so far and what we can expect from the Chinese space sector over the remainder of the decade.

The word ‘commercial’, in the context of China, refers to a company with the primary goal of making money, as opposed to selling to government, building infrastructure, or having other non-commercial motives. Most commercial companies are privately or semi-privately owned, and around half of funding comes from venture capital (VC), with the other half provided by local or provincial government.

Some commercial companies are spinoffs or direct subsidiaries of the somewhat impenetrable Chinese state system, which includes the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS); China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the main contractor for the Chinese space programme; and China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation (CASIC), a state-owned enterprise that designs, develops and manufactures a range of space and defence systems.

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