A private Chinese company will launch the country's first commercial rocket in the first half of 2018.
Headquartered in Beijing, a start-up company named OneSpace was established in 2015. In an area that is not even a thousand square meters, engineers are working to assemble a new rocket.
The company has completed tests of the rocket.
China has encouraged private ventures into the market for space exploration in recent years, and many believe private ventures’ participation could change the industry's landscape.
"We are not like the national aerospace authorities who have a lot of state-planned programs to work on," said Shu Chang, founder of OneSpace.
“In the future, I think that projects with high requirements for scientific research, such as deep space exploration, will be done by national aerospace authorities,” said Shu. “The one for commercial purpose will be done by private companies who pay more attention to efficiency and cost.”
It is estimated that the international aerospace market will be worth 485 billion US dollars by 2020 and China will account for a quarter of the total. About 2,000 satellites will be sent into orbit in the next decade, two-thirds of which will be for commercial use.
Still, the commercial spaceflight is in its infancy in China, while other countries have already had quite mature industries. One of the most prominent players is the American firm, SpaceX. Founded by billionaire Elon Musk, SpaceX is the only private company that has been able to bring back its spacecraft from the low-earth orbit.
But OneSpace has its own advantages as well.
"While SpaceX focuses on the development of large rockets, we have a different strategy,” said Shu Chang. “We focus on small rockets mainly carrying satellites and we have more strength on costs.”
With ambitious goals, OneSpace is currently developing three types of rockets. However, each one has its own unique challenges.
"The investment into space projects is heavy, and the duration is relatively long,” said Shu. “With the launch of our first rocket, we expect that we can make break-even in 2019. It is only our first step.”
“We need much more investment in the future for making bigger rockets,” he added.
With more private money and workforce being poured into space projects, the heights the industry can reach will go much higher than the sky.