China’s Wenchang aims to become a commercial space hub

(ORDO NEWS) — The southern city, which is home to China‘s newest spaceport, is aiming to become a hub for commercial and international space activities.

Wenchang International Aerospace City is stepping up efforts to establish a commercial spaceport and rocket assembly plants, reports ThePaper.

The goal of these efforts is to create the infrastructure for regular commercial launches by 2024. The Wenchang International Aerospace City Project, set up in 2020, will consist of three zones focused on launch, trade and industry, and tourism.

The commercial zone is aimed at attracting space startups and will include factories for assembling and testing rockets and satellites, as well as centers for the use of satellite data.

Institutes owned by China’s main space contractor CASC, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and other government entities, as well as commercial launch companies iSpace and Deep Blue Aerospace, have signed contracts to build their presence in the city.

The city, located on an island in Hainan Province in the South China Sea, already hosts the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. The coastal spaceport was built specifically for launching large next-generation launch vehicles, which will allow China to implement large space projects.

The rockets are delivered to Wenchang by sea from Tianjin in northern China, bypassing the rail networks used to transport small launch vehicles to domestic launch sites.

Since opening in 2014, Wenchang has hosted 16 launches, including the launch of the space station module and cargo missions, the return of samples from the Moon, and the first interplanetary expedition Tianwen-1.

Wenchang also hosts launches of the Long March 8 rocket for commercial travel and the Long March 7A. The new launchers could replace the aging, toxic Long March rockets that drop spent stages to the ground.

According to the rocket’s manufacturer, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, new specialized launch towers could be built for the Long March 8 to increase the frequency of launches.

On April 12, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Xi Jinping visited the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, calling for the facility to be developed into a world-class spaceport.

“I hope you will vigorously promote the spirit of the manned space program, see the frontier of global space development, to meet the core strategic needs of China’s space industry,” Xi said.

Wenchang is currently preparing the Long March 7 rocket to launch the Tianzhou-4 cargo spacecraft. The launch, expected in early May, will be the first of six launches in 2022 to complete the construction phase of China’s Tiangong space station.

Everything happening in Wenchang reflects the explosive growth of Chinese launch plans and space activities. In 2021, China carried out 55 launches, and this year more than 60 are planned, including commercial ones. For comparison,

China is also developing offshore launch capabilities with facilities in Haiyan in eastern Shandong province, a new commercial spaceport in Ningbo, and new launch facilities at the national Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

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