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Asia

Chinese Private Space Companies iSpace and LinkSpace Reach New Milestones

Look out Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Chinese private space companies are racing forward.

(Image Credit: Onur Ömer Yavuz from Pixabay)
(Image Credit: Onur Ömer Yavuz from Pixabay)

It’s been a good few weeks for Chinese private space companies, who are looking to catch up to their American peers in a rapidly growing industry.

In late July, iSpace became the first Chinese private space company to launch a vehicle—the Hyperbola-1—into orbit. Previous launched by LandSpace and OneSpace failed.

And in the past week, the companies LinkSpace successfully launched its RLV-T5 reusable rocket for the third time, reaching 300 meters—its highest altitude to date. The company plans an additional test with the RLV-T5 aiming to exceed a kilometer in height.

LinkSpace also announced last week a new reusable rocket project, the RLV-T6, which it claims can potentially be launched over 100 times per year. The RLV-6 is a larger rocket and capable of reaching altitudes of approximately 62 miles.

Cost is key in the commercial space industry. And Chinese companies offer value compared to their American counterparts. A launch on an iSpace rocket costs around $5 million—or roughly a fifth of that of a comparable Northrop Grumman rocket, writes Matthew Greenwood in a report for Engineering.com. LinkSpace—which uses more cost-effective liquid propellant launchers—says its launches may cost even less, around $4.25 million.

One emerging competitive niche within the commercial space industry is satellite-based global broadband. Several American companies, including Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, are aiming to put into orbit constellations of small satellites to provide broadband service in difficult-to-reach areas.

There’s a new great space race underway—with both commercial and governmental players involved. China’s official program may have already caught up with America’s—some say it’s now more advanced than that of the United States—and its commercial companies may soon be in the rear-view mirror of their American counterparts.

Arif Rafiq is the editor of Globely News and host of The Pivot podcast. He's contributed to publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, and POLITICO Magazine, and has appeared on broadcast outlets such as Al Jazeera English, the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio. Rafiq is also a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC.

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