Chinese Private-Sector Company Launches a History-Making Rocket
Matthew Greenwood posted on August 14, 2019 |

iSpace made history recently, becoming the first Chinese privately-funded company to launch a vehicle into orbit.

The company—also known by the awesome name Beijing Interstellar Glory Space Technology Ltd.—sent up the Hyperbola-1 launch vehicle from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on July 25.

Hyperbola-1 is a solid-propellant rocket made up of three solid stages and a liquid-propellant fourth stage. It has a payload capacity of around 575 pounds and a weight at launch of about 68,000 pounds.

The Hyperbola-1 carried two commercial satellites to an orbit of about 186 miles above the earth: an amateur radio satellite and a technology verification payload for China Central Television. The rocket also carried three smaller payloads attached to its upper stage.

iSpace's historic launch.

The company is moving quickly to build on this success. iSpace is planning up to eight commercial rocket launches next year and has received either contracts or interest from a growing a list of clients from the Chinese market as well as from Singapore, Italy, Spain, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka.

And with a launch price tag of about $5 million—compared to the $25 million to $30 million needed for a launch on a Northrop Grumman small rocket—iSpace is poised to make significant noise in the growing private sector market.

Also, iSpace is already working on Hyperbola-2, which will be a reusable rocket that will return to earth after delivering its payload the way SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets do.

The launch of Hyperbola-1 is a significant step forward not only for iSpace but for the Chinese aerospace sector as a whole. In the past year two other Chinese aerospace startups—LandSpace and OneSpace—attempted to launch payloads into orbit… but they failed.

The Chinese government opened up the country’s launch and smallsat sectors to private investment in 2014. Numerous aerospace startups were founded shortly afterwards—iSpace being one of them. Just a few short years later, that same private company made a successful launch into orbit. After launch, iSpace thanked state-owned space and defense contractors and organizations for their support—the company and its competitors have been collaborating with Chinese state aerospace entities to accelerate the growth of the launch and smallsat industries in the country.

With Hyperbola-1, the Chinese private sector space market has achieved a significant milestone. And thanks to a coordinated strategy shared by private and state aerospace organizations, China will surely continue to grow as a significant player in the global space race.

Want to read more about China’s plans for space? Check out China to Build a Gigawatt Power Station in Space.


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