A Chinese startup has set an ambitious timetable in the country’s race to develop reusable rockets, a technology pioneered by SpaceX and used by Elon Musk’s company to lower costs and dominate the global industry for satellite launches.
Beijing-based Orienspace, which last month conducted its first launch of a single-use rocket, is developing the reusable Gravity-2 and expects the rocket’s maiden flight to take place in late 2025 or early 2026, co-founder and co-Chief Executive Officer Yao Song said in an interview.
Other Chinese companies competing to achieve reusability include Beijing Interstellar Glory Space Technology, a startup known as i-Space, which staged a test in December. Meanwhile, a subsidiary of state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. last month conducted a vertical takeoff and landing test of its reusable Kuaizhou rocket.
Reusable rockets are transforming space access because they allow companies to utilize some of the most expensive parts of the device over and over, with little refurbishment. While Musk’s SpaceX remains far and away the global leader in the field, the Jeff Bezos-founded Blue Origin LLC is pushing ahead with plans to launch the reusable New Glenn rocket this year.
While Chinese companies, including startups and state-owned enterprises, launched nearly 70 rockets last year, all of the vehicles were single-use. During that time, SpaceX had nearly 100 launches of its reusable rockets.
As well as working on its reusable target, Orienspace last month launched its first sea-based rocket, which Yao said offers flexibility and convenience for companies looking for ways to increase launch frequency at a lower cost. An offshore launch “can save a month of time and millions of yuan in logistics costs for each rocket,” he said. “This is a significant improvement in business efficiency.”
The company has three to five rocket launches planned in 2025 and five to eight for 2026. Orienspace wants to get its frequency to 10 times a year in about three years’ time, which would help it achieve revenue of 1 billion yuan ($140 million), according to Yao.
That threshold would make it “easier” to file a listing application for an initial public offering, he said. Orienspace recently completed a Series B financing round of about 600 million yuan, and the company has a post-financing valuation of about 6 billion yuan, Yao said.
China’s growing space industry is set to boost demand for launch services, and the sector is already attracting investors. News outlet Caixin reported Feb. 2 that Shanghai Spacecom Satellite Technology, a startup backed by the Shanghai government, raised 6.7 billion yuan to fund a low-Earth orbit constellation that could include more than 12,000 satellites.