Installation of China’s First Commercial Spacecraft Launch Site Starts in Hainan

Installation of equipment at a station for China’s first commercial spacecraft launch site started on January 29 in Wenchang, a city in China’s southern island province of Hainan. The site is scheduled to complete work by the end of this year.

The installation has been undertaken by a company affiliated to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. The equipment includes a fixed service tower, diversion devices, a launch pad, water spraying systems, lightning protection towers, hoisting equipment and transition transportation equipment, among other items.

The commercial spacecraft launch site is invested in and built by Hainan International Commercial Space Launch Co., Ltd., which is committed to further enhancing the launch capabilities of Chinese commercial spacecraft. Located in the surrounding area of Wenchang Space Launch Site, it covers a total area of 133.33 hectares. Starting in July 2022, it has a construction period of 19 months and is expected to realize normal launches in 2024.

In 2023, a work report issued by the Hainan provincial government mentioned developing Wenchang into a “space city.” The connections between Wenchang and aerospace are getting tighter and tighter. The Wenchang Space Launch Site is the first coastal launch site in China. In 2016, the Long March-7 carrier rocket was successfully launched there, transforming the city, which once relied on marine resources, into a world-famous space town.

As it is situated close to the equator, when launching satellites, the centrifugal force brought by the larger linear velocity and inertia can greatly reduce fuel consumption of rockets. This young launch site has successfully completed major missions such as the Long March-5B carrier rocket, the Tianhe core module, the Wentian module and the Mengtian module.

With the spurt development of aerospace technology, the industry is becoming a new powerful engine for current economic development. Commercial aerospace has expanded from the traditional fields of communication, navigation and remote sensing application satellites to manned spaceflight, space exploration, on-orbit services and other fields. More and more private enterprises and venture capital firms are entering the aerospace field.

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Compared with the mature commercial aerospace model abroad, China’s commercial aerospace is still in its infancy, but it is developing rapidly. Up to now, there are hundreds of registered commercial aerospace companies in China. Among them, private aerospace enterprises account for more than 80%, mainly concentrated in the field of satellite applications and launches.

However, the financing quota of startups in China’s commercial aerospace field is far from sufficient. It takes at least one year to develop and launch a rocket, and long wait times make it impossible to match investment within the three to five years typically pursued by private equity funds. High risks and slow return times eventually lead to financing challenges.