China to expand commercial spaceport to support upcoming launch surge

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun14,2024

HELSINKI — China plans new phases of expansion for its new commercial spaceport to support an expected surge in launch and commercial space activity.

Construction of the second of two launch pads at Hainan Commercial Launch Site could be completed by the end of May. The first, completed in December and dedicated to the Long March 8 rocket, could host its first launch before the end of June. 

However there are plans to expand the complex in two further phases. “Commercial satellites are waiting to be launched from our launch center,” Guo Qiang, deputy secretary of the Party branch at Hainan International Commercial Spacecraft Launch Center, told CCTV in April.

“Each launch pad for liquid propellant rockets will have a launch capacity of 16 rockets, and we will be starting the second and third phase of the launch center in the future.”

The extent of these phases was not disclosed. However, a recent interview suggests the spaceport could have a total of 10 pads serving both liquid and solid rockets.

The reason for the dramatic expansion appears to be increasing access to space and allowing China to achieve a launch rate needed to build a pair of low Earth orbit megaconstellations, each over 10,000-satellites strong. It is also a further sign of China’s commitment to establishing a thriving commercial space sector.

The megaconstellations projects are the national Guowang project, or SatNet, consisting of around 13,000 satellites, and the Shanghai-backed G60 Starlink initiative, which raised 6.7 billion yuan ($943 million) early this year.

The first batches of satellites are planned for launch this year. But thousands will need to be launched to meet deadlines set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which coordinates the use of frequencies.

China’s launch rate has grown rapidly in recent years, from a national record 22 in 2016, to 55 in 2022 and 67 in 2023. This growth however, does not include nor allow for launches of the megaconstellation projects. Existing spaceports—inland at Jiuquan, Taiyuan and Xichang, the national Wenchang spaceport hosting China’s newer, larger Long March rockets, and a hub for sea launches on the coast of Shandong province—are not able to provide the required extra capacity.

The new commercial Hainan spaceport will be able to cater to a vast majority of China’s new commercial rockets and allow for reusability.

The expansion goes beyond launch. A satellite “super factory” is also being readied as part of the wider Wenchang International Space City project. The large-scale manufacturing facility is designed for mass production of satellites. Its annual output can reach around 1,000 satellites,” Liu Botao, chief engineer of fixed assets construction from the Beijing Institute of Satellite Environmental Engineering (BISEE), told CCTV in April. This adds to an explosion in Chinese small satellite manufacturing capacity.

The growth of commercial space activity is receiving strong promotion by China’s central and local governments.

The commercial space industry was noted as a priority in a central government work report in March as one of several strategic emerging industries to nurture. Municipal and provincial governments, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shandong, Hainan and Anhui have recently introduced policies to attract and foster commercial space companies.

Beijing aims to attract and nurture more than 100 high-tech enterprises, over 50 specialized and innovative companies, and at least five so-called unicorn companies. Shanghai’s initiative envisions the city achieving an annual output of 50 commercial rockets and 600 commercial satellites by 2025.

LEO megaconstellations are not the only new Chinese satellite projects. Chinese entities are also building large optical and radar constellations. 

This year, China is targeting around 100 launches, including around 30 planned by commercial actors.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “China to expand commercial spaceport to support upcoming launch surge”
  1. China is really stepping up its game in the space industry. It’s fascinating to see the country’s commitment to expanding its commercial spaceport to support the upcoming surge in launches. The planned expansions are a clear indication of China’s ambitious goals in space exploration.

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