China’s iSpace plans up to 8 commercial rocket launches next year

FILE PHOTO: The Hyperbola-1 rocket of Chinese space company iSpace is seen before its successful launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Gansu province, China July 25, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Beijing-based startup iSpace is planning up to eight commercial rocket launches next year, after last week becoming China’s first privately funded firm to put a satellite into orbit, its executives told Reuters.

iSpace’s success has turned up the heat on the country’s other 15-plus startups to develop vehicles capable of delivering satellites into orbit. Since late last year, two other firms have attempted but failed.

China envisions constellations of commercial satellites that can offer services ranging from high-speed internet for aircraft to tracking coal shipments. Reliable, low-cost and frequent deployment by private firms will be key.

“If you don’t have a rocket that can go into orbit, that shows that you don’t have a product. What business model can you speak of then?” iSpace’s Vice President for Finance Huo Jia said in an interview on Tuesday.

“The threshold for orbital launches is extremely high, and 99% of companies will fail,” Huo said, predicting only one or two firms in China would be successful in the next five to 10 years.

Clients from Singapore, Italy, Spain, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka, as well as mainland customers, have already either signed up for a spot on iSpace’s rockets or expressed interest.

iSpace is open to both private and government clients.

“It’s the same for us whether it’s a private or a state-owned company,” Vice President for Marketing and Communications Yao Bowen said.

The price tag to launch a rocket is 4.5 million euros ($5 million), Yao added.

That compares with the $25 million to $30 million needed for a launch on a Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems Pegasus, a commonly used small rocket.

Since its founding in late 2016, iSpace has completed six rounds of fund-raising totaling over 700 million yuan ($102 million). The last round took place in June.

To help develop the Hyperbola-2, which will also be a reusable rocket, iSpace will “definitely” complete a large round of fund-raising later this year, Huo said, declining to give more details.

Many of iSpace’s rivals are designing cheap, disposable boosters. Only one other firm – LinkSpace – aims to build reusable rockets that return to Earth after delivering their payload, much like the Falcon 9 rockets of Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The reusable design of Hyperbola-2 will cut costs by 70%, Huo said.

iSpace estimates a first launch of its reusable rocket in 2021.

The firm was founded by Peng Xiaobo, a former director of research and development at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, a top state Chinese rocket maker.

iSpace also owns a defense technology firm, corporate registration data published by Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce shows.

Reuters 

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.