Second Mover Advantage?
A closer look at Galactic Energy
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Housekeeping: For a little while I’ve been trying to figure out a sustainable rhythm for these issues. Every other week feels right, so I’m going to formalize that.
This week: A deep-dive into rocketmaker Galactic Energy, the iSpace launch failure report, and Geely gets the go ahead to build satellites for its networked cars.
The Ceres 1 at Jiuquan, Source: Galactic Energy
Galactic Energy (星河动力) is the company that followed up iSpace (星际荣耀) to become the second private Chinese company to send a rocket into orbit last November.
On February 20, a partner with Essential Capital (元航资本) published an in-depth article explaining why they originally decided to be angel investors in the private rocket company Galactic Energy and why they continue to back the team (I am fairly certain the partner is Chen Dong (陈东) because the article was signed Lao Chen and he’s the only person with Chen as a surname on the fund’s website).
The article explains how the team at Essential Capital came to meet the founders of Galactic Energy, why they were and are convinced that Galactic Energy was the right company to back, and how they celebrated the successful launch of Ceres 1 back in November.
The fund is made up of people with deep expertise in aerospace and engineering who focus on investments in hardware engineering startups. According to the Essential Capital partner, this background gives them the expertise to properly assess startups in the launch sector.
Essential Capital believes that Galactic Energy is a good bet because:
The management team has a good balance between vision and pragmatism
There will be robust demand for launch services with the Chinese government planning a large scale LEO constellation (details on this are hazy, with numbers around 10 or 13 thousand satellites being mentioned — see the new years issue for more)
Galactic Energy will be able to service multiple market segments with a small solid rocket as well as medium lift reusable liquid rockets in development
After their first successful flight, Galactic Energy received several orders worth hundreds of millions of RMB
Their liquid rockets will use a liquid oxygen/kerosene mix, which the firm believes is a more mature and affordable technology (competitors iSpace and Landspace are using liquid oxygen and methane)
The Pallas 1 and Pallas 2 (under development)
I didn’t have time to translate the whole article (it’s quite long), but if you want to read the original in Chinese:
A quick guide to possible mistranslations if you don’t read Chinese and want to have a go yourself using Google translate:
Galaxy Power (or even Galaxy Dynamics) = Galactic Energy
Pocky = Liu Baiqi (Baiqi is also the Chinese name for Pocky)
Gufa = solid engine
Solid/liquid hair = solid/liquid engine
Zhishen / Miseres = Pallas
Yuanhang Capital / Yuanhang Aviation Capital = Essential Capital
February 26: The International Organization for Standardization accepted a Chinese standard for space debris mitigation (link in Chinese).
February 24: A Long March 4C launched three Yaogan 31 satellites from Jiuquan. The satellites are believed to be used for military reconnaissance.
February 24: CASC released the 2020 Blue Book of China Aerospace Science and Technology Activities. Text in Chinese here.
February 22: Xi Jinping met with scientists from the Chang’e 5 mission and attended an exhibit of the lunar samples brought back.
February 19: The International Astronautical Federation announced a contest for university teams to win a free launch for a cubesat aboard a Chinese (CASC) rocket. While the contest is open to all IAF member universities, what the announcement does not mention is that US satellites are banned from being launched on Chinese rockets, absent special permission from the US government.
Policy & Politics
February 26: Zhang Jinhong, a missile expert with CASIC, was removed from the CPPCC (the Chinese legislature’s advisory upper body) for unknown reasons (link in Chinese) just days before legislature was set to begin the yearly two sessions meetings.
February 21: An aerospace industrial park was announced in the city of Yichang in Hubei Province (link in Chinese). In total, 5 billion RMB will be spent, with the first phase costing 1 billion RMB.
March 1: iSpace (星际荣耀) released its report on the failure of the launch of its modified Hyperbola 1 rocket. iSpace claims that a piece of insulation hit a grid fin which ultimately caused the crash.
February 26: Satellite imagery company PIESAT (航天宏图) announced its 2020 financial performance, with operating income up 41% over the previous year (link in Chinese).
February 23: The Secure World Foundation and the Caelus Foundation released Lost Without Translation: Identifying Gaps in U.S. Perceptions of the Chinese Commercial Space Sector.
February 18: Carmaker Geely received approval from the NDRC to build its satellite factory in Taizhou, Zhejiang Province. Geely is making its own satellites to provide “mobility services including Internet of Vehicles and autonomous driving, including V2X (vehicle-to-everything) communications” and it plans its first satellites in the first half of 2021. Two days later, Geely applied to trademark the name Shanghe Aerospace (上合航天) (link in Chinese).
March 2: Spacewatch.global is hosting a 33 min webinar with Blaine Curcio of Euroconsult to talk about the Chinese space sector at 10 AM EST.
March 9: The University of Tokyo and the European Space Policy Institute will cohost a webinar to discuss ESPI’s recent report on newspace in China (also with Blaine Curcio and several others) at 3:30 - 5 AM EST (it’s afternoon in Japan).
Mid-late April: launch of the Tianhe core module of the Chinese space station (estimate by Andrew Jones)
Until next time
My name is Cory Fitz and I write the Taikonautica newsletter. To make you smarter about China’s rapidly evolving space industry, Taikonautica brings you translations of Chinese-language articles, as well as a roundup of links and news.
If you have any questions, comments, or corrections, tweet at me at @cory_fitz or email me at email@example.com.
They sure look like SpaceX's Falcon Heavy