Monday, August 23, 2021

China Moving to Emulate NASA's Commercial Cargo System

NASA's Commercial Cargo program has been a successful effort to get more companies involved in bringing supplies to the International Space Station as well as bringing back junk from the ISS.  This Saturday, for example, a SpaceX Cargo Dragon is scheduled to launch to the ISS, the 23rd mission just from SpaceX.  Northrup Grumman launched their 16th mission earlier in the month from Wallops Island, Virginia.  

News came out last week showing that China is doing the same sorts of things to try to help boot up their commercial space sector, too. Space News carries the story, starting out with a related item:

Beijing-based InterSpace Explore signed a deal Aug. 4 with Chinese private launch firm Galactic Energy for launch of the Zengzhang-1 demonstration returnable satellite on a Ceres-1 solid rocket in 2022.

A day later Interspace Explore, full name Beijing Interstellar Development Technology Co., Ltd., raised tens of millions of Chinese yuan (¥6.48 per dollar) from investment firm Innoangel Fund.


Interspace Explore founder Fu Shiming, a former employee of state-owned spacecraft maker China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) and a member of the Tiangong-2 space lab project, said at a press conference that spacecraft are essential to human use of space resources and hold huge commercial and military value.

They make the statement that this is in response to a call for proposals issued by China’s human spaceflight agency, CMSA, last January soliciting low-cost cargo transportation solutions for the Chinese space station. The announcement was the first indication that the national space station project would be opened to involvement of commercial companies. 

The main requirements for cargo delivery include a payload capacity of 1-4 tons, the possibility for removing and deorbiting station waste to prevent space debris, and transportation costs to be inline with international levels. For returning cargo to Earth, requirements are for a payload 100-300 kilograms with the returning spacecraft to be easily tracked and recovered. 

The scheme aims to supplement the large Tianzhou cargo delivery system and build a “flexible, efficient, diverse, and low-cost cargo transportation system.”

Right now, the Tianzhou cargo spacecraft are the only means China has to supply their space station.  These are large, 13,000 kg payload vehicles, and the Chinese could use a more robust supply line to keep their new station operational. 

The Long March 5B (Y2) used to launch the Chinese space station core module at assembly at a facility in Tianjin. CMSA photo.


  1. Any enterprise in the PRC bigger than a fried bat stand in the Wuhan market is effectively owned and operated by the People's Revolutionary Army.

  2. When someone refers to the CCP "emulating" anything the west has done what they are actually saying is the Chinese STOLE IT....either by espionage or hacking.

  3. Well, that's funny, considering that the CCP Party is currently cracking down on 'capitalists' and their companies. Just look at the way they've gone after Jack Ma and Alibaba and the Hong Kong companies.

    The ChiComs are always, always going against themselves, finding more internal enemies than external.

    Yeah, I can see it now. JoChinkInc tenders a viable alternative to the national rocket people. And then JoChinkInc gets forced out of business or is absorbed by the 5th People's Army Space Enterprise.

    Yeah... No....

  4. Emulate? You mean copy or build from stolen blueprints.

  5. "Chinese private launch firm Galactic Energy"?

    Pull the other one.