China rolls out rules to guide development of SpaceX-style commercial rocket research in the country

13-Jun-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

China has rolled out its first rules to regulate the manufacture of commercial space rockets and test flights in a move to guide healthy development of the commercial space sector, mirroring similar moves by the US in recent years.

As a rising number of start-ups set out to be China’s version of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the guidelines are the first since China’s space industry was opened to the private sector in 2014. They require companies to obtain official permission before carrying out rocket research and development as well as production, according to a notice published on the web site of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense on Monday.

The new rules also require a confidentiality system to be established among commercial rocket companies and asks them to follow state export control regulations when in doubt about whether they can provide overseas services and products.

The detailed regulations come as the number of private companies engaged in the commercialisation of China’s space industry increased to almost 100 in 2018 from 30 a year earlier, and as Beijing puts more emphasis on private sector involvement to boost its space ambitions.

 (South China Morning Post)

(South China Morning Post)

“The specifics give clear direction for China’s commercial space industry, clarifying the qualifications, operational boundaries and national guarantees, which will be conducive to the sector’s healthy and orderly development,” Shu Chang, CEO of Beijing-based commercial rocket pioneer OneSpace Technology, was quoted as saying to state media Global Times on Tuesday

Since coming to power in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has made becoming a “space flight superpower” a priority for his government. Since 2014, Beijing has encouraged more private investors to participate in its space push to bolster commercial space technology development, including policies directed at investment and providing land for launches.

The guidelines issued on Monday said commercial rocket development had the potential to lower the cost of space sector development, improving China’s space power and competitiveness globally. It also encourages private companies to partner with state-backed organisations to take full advantage of the latter’s resources in research development, production and launch facilities.

The move by China mirrors similar efforts by the US in recent years to shift the burden of space exploration and technology development away from the state and into the private sector, leading to space rocket development by the likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson.

Military interests still weigh though. President Donald Trump has championed a return to the moon, calling for a lunar gateway that would allow a continuous stream of spacecraft and people to visit the moon, and serve as a leaping off point for Mars. Trump has also called for the creation of a “Space Force”, a sixth branch of the military that would be focused on defending US interests.

China accounts for roughly 3 per cent of the $16.1 billion invested in private space companies and partnerships since 2009 in the world. But investments have increased rapidly since 2016, and the country led the world in the third quarter of 2018, according to Space Angels, a US investment firm that specialises in private space ventures.



Category: China

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