Shenzhen offers support to boost satellite sector in Chinese city

Space

HELSINKI — Shenzhen will provide up to $47 million in support for development of satellite equipment, applications and other areas to drive space-related innovation in the southern Chinese city.

The city in Guangdong province will provide as much as 40 percent of total investment for a project, or up to 300 million yuan per project, the Shenzhen Municipal Development and Reform Commission announced Monday.

The notice states support for activities including developing high-throughput broadband satellite communication systems, remote sensing constellations, satellite terminal development, data processing and assisting launch insurance.

Shenzhen aims to enhance independent innovation capabilities in satellite manufacturing and applications, consolidate infrastructure construction, and build a leading satellite and innovation ecosystem through the initiative.

Shenzhen joins a number of cities creating policies to support the development of satellite ecosystems, following Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, also in Guangdong province. 

The developments indicate that while policies supportive of commercial space activities have been created at the national level, local and provincial governments are playing a big part in implementation.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) added “satellite internet” to a list of “new infrastructures” in April 2020. This led to a growth in investment in the sector and city-level initiatives to support activities.

Shenzhen hosts microsatellite maker Shenzhen Aerospace Dongfanghong HIT Satellite Ltd., ultimately owned by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), China’s main, state-owned space contractor. The municipal notice however notes Shenzhen’s lack of major national space projects.

Regulatory framework for commercial satellites

The development follows national level moves to bring clarity to China’s nascent commercial satellite sector.

Lucie Senechal-Perrouault, a researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, told SpaceNews via email that a “notice on promoting the orderly development of small satellites” issued May 19 by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) provides needed clarity for those wishing to enter the sector.

“The very clear organization makes it understandable to anyone wanting to enter the sector,” says Senechal-Perrouault. She adds that the notice is indicative of a drive for diversification of the Chinese space sector and encourages mixed public-private space activities.

The move follows a 2019 “notice on the orderly development of commercial launches” which provided guidelines for the launch sector, as China seeks to create a clear regulatory framework for commercial space activities.

China has yet to implement a first national space law. Submission of a draft to the National People’s Congress has been expected in recent years following its addition to the legislative agenda in 2013 but has yet to occur. 

The legislation will be watched closely for its stance on military activities in outer space and approach to the issues of space debris and space resources.

In another satellite-related development, the coastal city of Xiamen in Fujian province is expected to launch the 120-kilogram Xiamen-1 satellite as soon as October to provide remote sensing services for the city. It is planned to be part of a 108-satellite constellation with involvement from the Xi’an Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Changguang Satellite, China’s largest commercial remote sensing satellite firm, was created as a spinoff from CAS’s Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics in northeast China.

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