Several regional governments are pushing ahead with plans to develop the commercial space industry, as well as the participation of the private sector. Yizhuang, located in Beijing's Daxing district, has announced plans to create a “rocket street”, featuring an innovative research and development center, a high-end intelligent manufacturing center, and a science and technology interactive exhibition hall to attract high-quality projects from the entire commercial space industry chain. By 2028, Yizhuang aims to attract more than 100 high-tech enterprises, 50 specialized enterprises, five unicorn companies and five listed companies. Ultimately, Yizhuang aims to become a commercial space innovation cluster with “thousands of enterprises, thousands of satellites in orbit and hundreds of billions of yuan of revenue.”
A Beijing reusable rocket technology innovation center was unveiled in Yizhuang at a recent meeting. Continued efforts will be made to comprehensively promote the listing of aerospace companies. Yizhuang has already attracted more than 50 aerospace companies including 70% of China's private rocket assembly and manufacturing companies. In the past year, China has further underscored the importance of commercial space development. Commercial space was listed as a strategic emerging industry during the Central Economic Work Conference (CEWC) in December. Regional governments including those of Beijing and Shanghai have issued detailed timetables to develop the industry. With Yizhuang as an important base, by 2028 Beijing aims to be the first city in China to achieve reusable rocket launch, recovery and re-launch capabilities; provide low-cost and highly reliable satellite and rocket launches; and operate satellite constellations on a large scale. By 2025, Shanghai will have the capability to mass-produce 50 commercial rockets and 600 commercial satellites per year, enabling the digital transformation of the economy, daily life and governance through the application of space information technology, according to a three-year action plan released last October.
The start of 2024 has seen China's commercial space launches gain pace. The Jielong-3, developed by China Rocket Co, delivered nine satellites into orbit on February 3. On the same day, Chinese automaker Geely launched 11 satellites to boost its capacity to provide more accurate navigation services. Commercial space development holds significant strategic importance and economic value for China. It not only drives economic growth but also serves as a focal point of technological competition between China and the U.S., Wang Peng, Associate Researcher at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. It will drive technological advances and industrial upgrades in areas like new materials, new energy and intelligent manufacturing, injecting new momentum into China's economic development, Wang said. Private firms and regional governments are playing an important role in commercial space, Huang Zhicheng, a Chinese expert in aerospace science and technology, said. “The combination of the central government, local governments and private investment has resulted in relatively successful cooperation,” Huang said.
China's commercial space industry took off in 2015, when private investment was encouraged in the construction and development of civilian space infrastructure. In 2023, Chinese private-sector launched 13 rockets, accounting for about 20% of China's total launches. Last year saw a new record of 67 orbital launches by China, ranking second globally after the U.S., which made 116 launch attempts, including just under 100 by Elon Musk's SpaceX, Reuters reported. According to Taibo Intelligence Unit, China's commercial space sector will experience a golden era of development from 2023 to 2028 with an estimated market scale of CNY2.8 trillion in 2025, the Global Times reports.
The year 2023 was the year of the rise of China’s private space sector, with a number of private companies achieving remarkable results, the China Daily adds. In April, Space Pioneer conducted the successful maiden flight of its TL 2 rocket, making it the first privately built Chinese liquid-fueled rocket to reach orbit, and the first privately developed, liquid-propellant rocket in the world to succeed in its first attempt to reach orbit. In July, ZQ 2, a rocket model developed by LandSpace, succeeded in its second attempt to reach orbit and became the world’s first methane-fueled rocket to complete an orbital mission. In December, ZQ 2, one of the largest and most powerful private rockets in China, successfully conducted its third flight. Private players also showed their technological innovation and creativity in the satellite field. GalaxySpace, a leading private satellite maker, built China’s first satellite equipped with a flexible solar array and sent it into space in July, tasking it with verifying a next-generation low-Earth-orbit broadband communication system and other advanced satellite technologies.