Commercial space launch site begins construction
Aerial photo taken on July 6, 2022 shows the construction site of Hainan commercial spacecraft launch site in Wenchang city, South China's Hainan province.
China's first space launch site dedicated to commercial missions started construction in Wenchang, a coastal city in Hainan province, on Wednesday, according to the provincial government.
The Hainan Commercial Space Launch Site program is a joint venture of the Hainan government and three State-owned space conglomerates－China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp and China Satellite Network Group, the provincial government said in a news release.
The site's construction is being undertaken by China Aerospace Construction Group, it added.
Speaking at a commencement ceremony in Wenchang, Feng Fei, the provincial governor, said that Hainan will make full use of the new launch site to establish an entire space industry chain covering carrier rockets, satellites and data processing businesses.
He said the facility will help to build Wenchang into a world-class spaceport.
There is already a launch complex in Hainan－the Wenchang Space Launch Center－but like the other three existing launch centers in China－Jiuquan, Taiyuan, and Xichang－it is administered by the central government and is primarily tasked with serving State programs such as lunar explorations and manned spaceflight.
The provincial government intends to make the new site a leading launch system that will be fully commercially managed so it will be able to support the long-term growth of the country's commercial space industry, the release said.
In China, a commercial space mission generally refers to a space activity paid for by an entity other than a Chinese government or military department.
"The existing government-run launch centers are well developed but they are too busy to handle the increasing demands from the commercial space sector and it is not uncommon that even a government-assigned mission would have to wait for arrangement at those sites," said Hu Shengyun, a senior rocket designer at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp.
Each of the centers has only one to two service towers capable of launching carrier rockets and important State missions like crewed flights always have priority, he said.
"In addition, the management and operational methods of the existing centers were specifically designed for State-funded programs rather than commercial missions, so carrying out a lot of commercial launches will likely create problems or challenges for them," the rocket designer noted.
Ma Zhipingin Haikou contributed to this story.