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The competition heats up: A new Chinese launch company aimed at putting smallsats in orbit for a low price has signed its first customer.
In a statement published by China Daily, Zhang Di, vice president of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC) Fourth Academy, said Expace Technology Co. would charge around $10,000 per kilogram of satellite payload, which he said was less than half the prevailing commercial price. Zhang is also chairman of Expace.
CASIC created Expace in early 2016 as China’s second commercial-launch provider after China Great Wall Industry Corp. of Beijing, which has long been China’s showcase export vehicle for launches and commercial satellite contracts. China Great Wall is part of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CAST). Zhang said Expace has already signed its first commercial contract, valued at 100 million Chinese yuan, or around $14.5 million, to place three Earth observation satellites into low Earth orbit aboard a Kuaizhou 1 rocket for the government-owned Changguang Satellite Technology Co.
This same company has more than 10 other satellites slated for future launches on Kuaizhou rockets.
The situation here is interesting. This small company is essentially competing against China’s big space company that builds that country’s Long March rockets. It is also aiming to capture some of the market share of the new smallsat industry, specifically targeting international satellite companies that are becoming less and less dependent on the U.S. rocket components that would forbid their use on a Chinese rocket.