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Chinese private rocket firm takes flight


12-28-2016 05:11 BJT

The White Paper said that non-governmental enterprises and other social sectors are encouraged to participate in space-related activities. With the government increasing its cooperation with private investors, we now take a look at one testing ground in Shandong Province, where a group of rocket entrepreneurs are aiming for the stars.

23 year-old Hu Zhenyu and his teammates are preparing for a horizontal ground test of their new booster...

It will test how well the rocket can respond to commands once it takes off.

From rockets to testing facilities, the team of six men in their 20s built them all from scratch.

Their company was founded two years ago in Shenzhen - a frontier city for high-tech firms. But because rocket testing requires a large, open space, they then moved to an abandoned factory plant in Shandong province.

"The latest test is to see if the rocket can hover like a helicopter and stay in a vertical position. Such technology is crucial for the development of future reusable rockets. We are the first company in China which has completed such tests," said Hu Zhenyu, founder, Link Space Aerospace Technology Inc..

In such a capital-intensive space industry, launching a rocket is costly business. There is no way on earth an average university graduate could afford a start up like this.

"Other than receiving funding, we hope what we are doing can be a part of the country's space program. And private rocket companies like us can stand a chance to take part in national scientific projects which are exclusive to state institutes," Hu said.

Currently, the company is getting funding through venture capital, it is just about enough to cover basic operating costs. The company plans to develop a rocket that can carry instruments to an altitude of up to 200 kilometers -- different from the usual launch vehicles which transport heavy satellites.

"I am positive about the growth potential in the private rocket industry, because modern satellites that depend on low earth orbit rockets is getting smaller and more popular. If we have the right kind of rockets, the market is there for the taking," said Chu Longfei, CTO, Link Space Aerospace Technology Inc..

Most of these young men have made sacrifices while chasing their dream. They turned down great job offers and are working far away from home. And in a business where the possibility of risks and failure are high, these young men are just taking it one step at a time.

"I think there are a lot of similarities between launching a rocket and playing pool. Even when you are confident about the next move, there is always an uncertainty. You just have to keep on trying," said Zhang Weiao, Project Manager, Link Space Aerospace Technology Inc..

The furthest their rocket has gone is 68 kilometers - just a little over the half way mark of their 100-kilometer benchmark. But they’re not giving up. The company still has a clear timetable: to launch a reusable rocket into the space by the end of this year. If successful, this company will be a positive stimulus to the industry.

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