Chinese Rocket Startup Puts Satellites Into Orbit, the Latest in China’s Space Ambitions

By Reuters
July 25, 2019 Updated: July 25, 2019

BEIJING—A rocket developed by iSpace put satellites into orbit after a launch from a state facility in northwestern China on July 25, marking the first successful orbital launch by a privately funded Chinese firm.

iSpace’s Hyperbola-1 rocket blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre at 1 p.m. (0500 GMT) Thursday, sending two satellites and payloads into a predetermined orbit, the company said in a statement on its official Wechat account.

The successful orbital launch was preceded by two failures since late last year by other startups.

Beijing-based Landspace attempted to deliver a satellite into orbit in October 2018 but failed. In late March this year, a rocket developed by OneSpace also failed to reach orbit.

Tens of private Chinese space companies have joined a race in recent years to develop rockets capable of delivering low-cost micro-satellites with commercial applications, backed by mostly Chinese venture capital.

In May 2018, OneSpace became the first private firm to send an independently developed rocket into space. That was followed by successful suborbital launches by iSpace four months later.

The next step was to send a payload into orbit, which is partly inspired by the recent technological success of U.S. firms, such as SpaceX and Blue Origin.

The State Council, or cabinet, said in a white paper in December 2016 the space industry was an important part of China’s overall development strategy.

One of China’s near-term tasks is to develop major satellite systems of remote sensing, communications and broadcasting, and navigation and positioning.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made becoming a space flight superpower a priority for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since coming to office in 2012. The Chinese regime aims to send a permanent manned space station into orbit by around 2022.

The CCP has been highly aggressive with its military space programs. It tested its first anti-satellite weapon in May 2005, and shocked the space community in 2007 when it used a missile to destroy its Feng Yun 1-C weather satellite, and sent over 3,000 pieces of debris into low-earth orbit.

In its 2015 Annual Report to the Congress, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission warned that “China’s recent space activities indicate that it is developing co-orbital anti-satellite systems to target U.S. space assets.”

The Epoch Times reported that China is building its own third generation BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, as an alternative to America’s GPS-3. On June 25, China successfully launched its 15th BDS-3 satellite from Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

The U.S.-China Economic Review Commission warned in 2017 that the completion of the 35 BDS-3 satellite network by 2020 would allow China’s expanding BeiDou-guided conventional strike weapons to target “position accuracies of under ten meters.”

U.S. Air Force Space Command Gen. DeAnna Burt cautioned at a July 18 meeting of America’s top defense contractors about the risks from China’s cyber warriors that are routinely penetrating U.S. space contractor networks to steal top-secret data.

President Donald Trump is pushing for a Space Force military branch that would consolidate U.S. military space programs.

By Ryan Woo and Lusha Zhang. Epoch Times contributer Chriss Street and investigative reporter Joshua Philipp contributed to this report.