Is India beating China in its own game — building a low-price, efficient and increasingly reliable model in the space sector?
The Chinese government is possibly asking its space scientists this question.
Days after saying China was way ahead of India in space technology, a grudgingly complimentary state media piece on Monday said the Communist country could learn a “number of lessons” from its neighbour’s low-price and efficiency-driven advantages in the sector.
Last week, India launched 104 satellites, breaking the earlier Russian record of 37 satellites being placed in orbit at one go.
Well done India, but we are ahead in the space race, was the crux of the nationalistic tabloid Global Times’s opinion piece that was published as a response to the launch.
“Competition with India for commercial space launches may be inevitable, and the most urgent action needed for China to expand its market share is to reduce the cost of putting satellites into orbit.”
On Monday, the same newspaper asked a seemingly rhetorical question: “Over the past few days, some people have keenly followed the debate on whether China has lagged behind India in its space race.”
“India’s successful launch of a record-breaking 104 satellites into orbit could serve as a wake-up call for China’s commercial space industry and there are a number of lessons for the country to learn,” the article published in the section “Eye on the Economy” said.
The Chinese commercial space sector has lagged behind the global market and now the country has to learn from the experiences acquired by other countries, India included, on how to commercialise rocket launches.
The focus of the article was on the commercial aspects of India’s space forays.
“Competition with India for commercial space launches may be inevitable, and the most urgent action needed for China to expand its market share is to reduce the cost of putting satellites into orbit,” it said.
“China’s space sector, developing rapidly as an important part of the country’s defence industry, has focused less on cost-control in the past few decades. The country should make a fundamental transformation to allow some institutions in its space sector to run like a business instead of as government-backed research bodies,” the article said.
Restrictions on exporting technology from US
It said part of the reason why China’s space sector is not as commercially viable is because of US restrictions on exporting required technology to the US.
“Although China is developing rapidly into a major player in the space industry, the country’s commercial space sector is still in its infancy. Many of the world’s satellites are made in or use parts from the US. However, satellites and components made in the US are prohibited from being exported to China, making it very difficult for China to get contracts for commercial satellite launches with other countries,” it said.
But China is likely to put the wherewithal in place quickly.
ChinaRocket Co was established last year to ramp up the commercialization of China’s space sector. The firm has pledged a reduction in the cost of rocket launches by at least 30% through various measures including business model innovation.”
The cost-efficiency race in space is likely to pick up pace soon.