China’s Space Pioneer raises funds for reusable rockets

Beijing — Beijing-based rocket developer Space Pioneer said on Thursday that it had completed more than 1.5-billion yuan ($207m) round of fundraising that will go towards financing the development of its reusable rockets.

Space Pioneer, also known as Beijing Tianbing Technology, is among a small group of rapidly growing private sector rocket developers, spurred by the government’s call to transform China into a major space power.

Since its inception in 2019, the company has raised more than 4-billion yuan in 15 financing rounds.

The latest funding, from a mix of private equity and state-backed venture capital firms, will be used to finance the first flight of its Tianlong-3 rocket and its mass production.

In April 2023, Space Pioneer launched a paraffin-oxygen rocket, the Tianlong-2, or “Sky Dragon”, becoming the first private Chinese firm to send a liquid-propellant rocket into space.

The first of the two-stage Tianlong-3 will be reusable, which could slash mission costs for clients, according to a statement published on Space Pioneer’s official WeChat account.

The company also has plans to launch an even bigger variant of the Tianlong-3 akin to US firm SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

The strategic value of Tianlong-3 will be to assist the development of China’s own satellite constellation by frequently taking as many as 30 satellites into orbit with a single rocket at a low cost, Space Pioneer said.

China has becoming increasingly concerned at what the dominance of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites at Earth’s lower orbits would mean in a military conflict with the US.

While China has at most a few hundred satellites operating 160km-1,000km from the Earth’s surface, what the European Space Agency defines as “low Earth orbit”, Starlink has several thousand.

Chinese state-owned enterprises, as well as private sector rocket developers have in the past two years tried to close the gap at lower orbits, with plans to launch thousands of low Earth orbit satellites in the next decade already in motion.

“The construction of low-orbit satellite giant constellations has become a new focus of international space exploration, and the rise of commercial liquid-propellant rockets in China is imperative,” Space Pioneer said.

“The development and mass production of the Tianlong-3 rocket will effectively enhance China’s competitiveness in the era of large capacity, and accelerate the construction of China’s satellite internet constellation.”


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