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China to construct commercial spaceport to support booming space industry

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HELSINKI — China will establish a commercial spaceport in the coming years to support the rapid growth of private space activities in the country.

The commercial space launch center was included in a list of national projects in the recently formulated 14th Five-Year Plan which covers 2021-2025.

The project gains approval following both a large increase in launches by the traditional space industry in China and the development of a private space sector in recent years.

China currently has four national launch centers that mainly support launches of Long March rockets from China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), the state’s main space contractor. Increasing launch activity and numbers of launch service providers could however be constrained by a bottleneck in launch facilities.

Dou Xiaoyu, a deputy to the National People’s Congress (NPC), the top Chinese legislative body, and a vice chairperson at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC), a giant state-owned enterprise, called for a Chinese commercial spaceport project in order to meet an expected surge in demand for space launch services. 

Dou said China needs to strengthen domestic launch site capacity and continuously improve and optimize facilities. She also noted that launch-related policies and regulations have yet to be promulgated and perfected.

CASIC, through its subsidiary Expace, launch Kuaizhou series solid rockets for commercial purposes, both on the open market and for its own projects including a narrowband Internet of Things low Earth orbit constellation, named Xingyun. CASIC is also developing methane-liquid oxygen propellant engines.

The move is not unexpected. The China National Space Administration stated in 2018 that the construction of an open and shared commercial space launch site was being explored (Chinese). The move follows a range of policies designed to facilitate and support China’s emerging commercial space sector, which was opened up to private capital in late 2014.

Startup companies Landspace, iSpace, OneSpace and Galactic Energy have since attempted orbital launches, while Expace and China Rocket, a spinoff from CASC, have also launched rockets. CAS Space, a Chinese Academy of Sciences spinoff, and private firms Deep Blue Aerospace, Linkspace, Spacetrek, Space Transportation and others are working towards launches. 

Launch capacity expansion

No details of the spaceport project were released. Information regarding location of the new launch center is not known, nor the authority overseeing operations and other matters. 

Commercial launch facilities have earlier been proposed close to both Jiuquan and Wenchang (Chinese). Ningbo city has also proposed (Chinese) a launch site as part of plans for a wider aerospace hub in Zhejiang province.

China’s current launch sites include three inland at Jiuquan in the northwest, Taiyuan in the north and Xichang in the southwest of the country and the new coastal Wenchang center on the southern island of Hainan. 

Moves to increase launch capabilities have recently been carried out. Xichang last year underwent renovations aimed at improving annual launch capacity from around 17 to about 30 launches.

Launch towers at Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The complex is being expanded to facilitate a new generation of rockets.
Xichang Satellite Launch Center is being expanded to facilitate a new generation of rockets. Credit: Beidou.gov.cn

A new eastern spaceport for supporting sea launches has also been established near Haiyang City on the coast of the eastern province of Shandong. It was constructed to facilitate sea-based launches of solid Long March 11 rockets and commercial launch vehicles from China Rocket, a spinoff from the state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology. 

New launch complexes for Kuaizhou rockets and methane-liquid oxygen propellant launch vehicles are understood to be under construction at Jiuquan in the Gobi Desert. Private firms Landscape and iSpace are developing the first Chinese methalox rockets and the Zhuque-2 and Hyperbola-2 respectively are expected to see debut launches in 2021 and 2022.

Jiuquan opened in the 1950s and currently mainly sees launches of older, hypergolic Long March rockets. 

It has so far hosted all private Chinese rocket launches, starting in 2018. These launch vehicles have all so far been light-lift solid rockets. Dou noted that existing facilities are unable to meet demands for high-density and low-inclination launches in the future.

China’s five-year plan for space

The commercial space launch center was included in chapter 11 of the five-year plan (Chinese), titled “building a modern infrastructure system”. Also noted is a “space infrastructure system” through the integration of communications, navigation, and remote sensing satellite systems.

China last completed its 35-satellite Beidou navigation system and is constructing the China High-resolution Earth Observation System (CHEOS) consisting of Gaofen satellites. 

Bao Weimin, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the consultative counterpart to the NPC, recently stated that the government would set up a company for overall planning and operation of satellite internet infrastructure.

Details are scarce, but filings with the International Telecommunication Union indicate a constellation of around 13,000 satellites in low Earth orbit.

Other parts of the five-year plan highlighted the achievements in human spaceflight and lunar and deep space exploration. The “outline for the 14th five year plan and long-term targets for 2035” also includes super-heavy and reusable launch vehicles, industrialization of the Beidou system and other civilian and military space-related developments.

A new dedicated space white paper is expected to be published later in 2021.

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Source: https://spacenews.com/china-to-construct-commercial-spaceport-to-support-booming-space-industry/

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Virgin Galactic unveils new spaceship for its growing fleet

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Virgin Galactic has unveiled the company’s first SpaceShip III in its growing fleet, VSS Imagine.

The spaceship showcases Virgin Galactic’s innovation in design and astronaut experience. Imagine also demonstrates progress toward efficient design and production, as Virgin Galactic works to scale the business for the long-term.

VSS Imagine will commence ground testing, with glide flights planned for this summer from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

The livery design, finished entirely with a mirror-like material, reflects the surrounding environment, constantly changing colour and appearance as it travels from earth to sky to space.

Leveraging a modular design, the SpaceShip III class of vehicles are built to enable improved performance in terms of maintenance access and flight rate. This third generation of spaceship will lay the foundation for the design and manufacture of future vehicles.

As VSS Imagine begins ground testing, manufacturing will progress on VSS Inspire, the second SpaceShip III vehicle within the Virgin Galactic fleet. The introduction of the SpaceShip III class of vehicles is an important milestone in Virgin Galactic’s multi-year effort that targets flying 400 flights per year, per spaceport.

VSS Imagine is unveiled ahead of VSS Unity’s next test flight, which is planned for May 2021.

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, commented: “Today we unveiled our SpaceShip III class of vehicles, marking the beginning of the Virgin Galactic fleet. VSS Imagine and Inspire are stunning ships that will take our future astronauts on an incredible voyage to space, and their names reflect the aspirational nature of human spaceflight. Congratulations to our dedicated team who worked so brilliantly to achieve this milestone.”

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, added: “Virgin Galactic spaceships are built specifically to deliver a new, transforming perspective to the thousands of people who will soon be able to experience the wonder of space for themselves. As a SpaceShip III class of vehicle, Imagine is not just beautiful to look at, but represents Virgin Galactic’s growing fleet of spaceships. All great achievements, creations and changes start with an idea. Our hope is for all those who travel to space to return with fresh perspectives and new ideas that will bring positive change to our planet.”

www.virgingalactic.com

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/virgin-galactic-unveils-new-spaceship-for-its-growing-fleet/

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Hexcel joins ASCEND project

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Hexcel joins ASCEND project

Hexcel has announced its role within the recently launched UK-based project called ASCEND (Aerospace and Automotive Supply Chain Enabled Development) that will focus on developing high-rate manufacturing and processing technologies that will accelerate the development of new, lightweight advanced composite materials.

The composites company will join lead partner GKN Aerospace and 13 other project stakeholders in a collaboration across the UK supply chain to develop the technologies and automation equipment required to manufacture lightweight, more fuel-efficient structures for sustainable air mobility, aerospace, and automotive industries.

Hexcel will contribute to the ASCEND project framework, developing a new HexPly fast cure prepreg system that will significantly reduce component processing times compared to existing aerospace prepregs.

In addition to its new fast curing prepreg technology, Hexcel’s range of Liquid Composite Moulding (LCM) products will be incorporated into the ASCEND project work packages. The project will use both HiTape advanced unidirectional dry carbon reinforcements and HiMax multiaxial non-crimp fabrics reinforcements.

The ASCEND project will allow Hexcel to collaborate with Tier 1 companies, engineers, tooling specialists, and production equipment OEMs to deliver both prepreg and liquid composite moulding solutions that meet both the performance targets and satisfy the processing requirements for high-rate automated manufacture.

The technical integration enabled by the ASCEND project partnerships will ensure a complete understanding of customer performance and processing needs, coupled with the opportunity to industrialize new technologies utilizing the extensive capabilities of GKN’s Global Technology Centre in Bristol.

Paul Mackenzie, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Hexcel, said “We are  proud to be part of the ASCEND program, and we look forward to working with other leading companies as we develop processes and materials that help to make the next generation of sustainable air mobility, aerospace, and automotive vehicles possible. This project offers the perfect platform for Hexcel to collaborate and further develop our HexPly, HiMax, and HiTape technologies.”

The ASCEND partners working alongside Hexcel include Assyst Bulmer, Airborne, Cobham Mission Systems Wimborne, Cygnet Texkimp, DES Composites, FAR-UK, Hive Composites, LMAT, Loop Technology, McLaren Automotive, The National Composites Centre, Solvay Composite Technologies, Rafinex, and Sigmatex (UK).

Together, the group looks forward to delivering the material and automation innovations that will power more sustainable mobility solutions of the future.

www.hexcel.com

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/hexcel-joins-ascend-project/

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes extends landing gear kits contract with Magellan

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes division has extended its component supply contract with Canada-based supplier Magellan Aerospace.

Under this long-term contract, Magellan will continue to supply landing gear kits and structural components for Boeing platforms such as the 737, 767, and 777.

The contract extension also shows that Magellan meets Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ cost, quality and performance requirements.

Magellan business development, marketing and contract vice-president Haydn Martin said: “Securing this major business extension for key Boeing platforms is foundational for our New York and Kitchener facilities as the aerospace industry works to recover from the impact of the global pandemic.

“The confidence that Boeing has placed in Magellan is significant and demonstrates our ability to offer our customers comprehensive and reliable solutions.”

For Boeing, the company is using a vertical integration strategy that leverages global resources in Ontario, New York City, and India.

It has also made significant investments across all its facilities regarding manufacturing technology and the workforce to enhance its competitiveness worldwide.

Magellan will deliver these kits and hardware from its facilities in Kitchener, Ontario and New York City, New York. The company will also produce an extra supply of kits to reduce production risk.

Deliveries will be made directly to Boeing’s assembly facilities in Renton and Everett, Washington, US.

Last month, Magellan signed a five-year renewal agreement with Avio Aero to supply magnesium and aluminium castings.

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Source: https://www.aerospace-technology.com/news/boeing-commercial-aircraft-magellan/

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ZeroAvia raises new funding for hydrogen-electric engine development

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Zero-emission aviation firm ZeroAvia has raised $24.3m in new funding to support the development of a 2MW hydrogen-electric engine.

Hong Kong-based venture capital firm Horizons Ventures, an existing investor, led the latest funding round and was joined by new investor British Airways.

Other investors, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Summa Equity, Shell Ventures, and SYSTEMIQ, also joined the financing.

The financing takes the company’s total private investment to more than $53m while the total funding raised is close to $74m since its formation.

ZeroAvia’s funding comes a few months after the UK Government, through the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), and Innovate UK, announced a $16.3m (£12.3m) grant to deliver a 19-seat hydrogen-electric powered aircraft in the market by 2023.

The new funding will accelerate the hydrogen-electric powertrain development for a ten to 20-seater regional aircraft.

ZeroAvia aims to commercialise the engine as early as 2024. The company aims to enter the more than 50-seater commercial aircraft segment by 2026.

The funding will also de-risk the company ambition to power a 100-seat single-aisle aircraft by 2030.

ZeroAvia CEO and founder Val Miftakhov said: “This new funding, in conjunction with our other recent milestones, will significantly accelerate our path to zero-emission solutions for larger regional aircraft at a commercial scale.

“With many airlines lining up and ready to make the shift to zero-emissions, we expect to see wide-scale adoption of this technology.”

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Source: https://www.aerospace-technology.com/news/zeroavia-electric-raising-funds/

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