China space startups are vying for private contracts
Roger Zhang, the chief executive of a Chinese rocket-building startup called Landspace has been dubbed “China’s Elon Musk” by the local media. A moniker that Zhang rejects. He prefers to operate quietly and is not fond of increased attention.
He says that “Investing in this type of business is slow. We do not want to prematurely announce anything until we are absolutely sure it can work successfully.”
In 2014, the Chinese government announced that they would now allow private corporations to build and launch satellites. This encouraged a large number of businessmen to venture into the industry. The satellite industry is valued 420 billion USD, this has proven to be a strong incentive for entrepreneurs. Unlike their western counterparts, such as, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, Chinese satellite executives have been cautious in making pronouncements.
Over the course of three years, dozens of satellite-related firms have started doing business in China. However, they are careful.
Mr. Lan Tianyi, owner of Ultimate Blue Nebula, a private consultancy for satellite firms explained the reason for the cautiousness of local entrepreneurs. He mentioned that the aerospace industry was once highly secretive. It was fully operated by the Chinese government and military. It also poses a large risk of failure. A fact that risk-averse Chinese businessmen are well aware of.
Growing industry potential
Local investors are largely vying for private satellite contracts over traditional government projects.
Since 2010, the number of launches from within the country has drastically increased. These satellite startups operating in China intend to launch over 20 satellites annually over the next two years.
At present, Chinese startups are largely launching cubesats into orbit. These small and cost-effective satellites are able to perform various functions including imaging, remote sensing, and communications. They are already being used by research institutions and telecommunications companies.
Lower launch costs in China is also proving to be an enticing prospect. Chinese startups are eyeing the launch of sophisticated satellites that rival the capability of those being launched by their western counterparts.
This move by the Chinese government is seen as a strategic initiative intended to bring them closer to their goal of sending a man on the moon by 2030.