Link here. The three private companies are Astra, Firefly, and Virgin Orbit. The fake Chinese private company is Expace.
Of the four, only Firefly has not yet attempted to launch, and in many ways remains the dark horse in this competition, coming out of bankruptcy to become reborn with a new investor. All three of the American private companies however have made it clear they intend to launch before the end of the year. The Chinese company’s plans are unknown (not surprisingly). Astra will be first, with its next launch attempt set for later this month.
One of China’s claimed-to-be private companies, Expace, today launched a smallsat into orbit using the Kuaizhou-1A solid-fueld rocket. .
Exspace, like OneSpace and Ispace, is considered private by the Chinese. I find it interesting however that all these private companies have remarkably similar names, and all appear to be doing military work. Even if they get private financing from Chinese investors and their management is formed independent of the government, we should not be fooled. These are wholly owned and controlled by the Chinese government. They do nothing without its knowledge and support.
The leaders in the 2018 launch race:
6 Europe (Arianespace)
China has widened its lead over the U.S. in the national rankings, 26 to 24.
The competition heats up: China’s Kuaizhou solid rocket, upgraded from a military mobile-launched ballistic missile, today placed its first three commercial satellites in orbit.
The rocket is designed to quickly launch smallsats into orbit for a reasonably low cost, and is built and marketed by China’s second commercial launch company, Expace.
In the China Daily report, he added that Expace is in talks with satellite manufacturers in Asia, Europe and Latin America, and has bid for contracts to launch their spacecraft. Guo Yong, president of the CASIC Fourth Academy, told China Daily that the organization intends to capture 20 percent of the global small satellite launch market by 2020. The Kuaizhou 1A rocket can deliver satellites of up to 300 kilograms — about 660 pounds — into low-altitude orbits, according to China Daily.
Expace is China’s second commercial launch services provider after China Great Wall Industry Corp., which sells Long March rocket missions, with an emphasis on launches of large communications satellites heading for geostationary orbit.
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.