HELSINKI — A Chinese electric satellite propulsion company has secured a multi-million yuan angel funding round amid a proliferation of Chinese constellation plans.
Kongtian Dongli (“Aerospace Propulsion”) was established in March 2022. The round was led by Jinshajiang Hongyu and MiraclePlus, according to Chinese media. reports.
The company’s main products are Hall thrusters and microwave electric propulsion systems, with an in-orbit test of the latter planned before December this year.
There are few entities engaged in small satellite propulsion in China, but the need and demand for such systems is clear.
China has established a state-owned company to manage a national satellite Internet constellation of up to 13,000 satellites. China SatNet has been attractive with commercial companies as it develops a plan to build the “Guowang” constellation.
In particular, these and other small satellites will be required to have onboard propulsion to reduce the chances of collision and mitigate the problem of debris in low Earth orbit.
A “notice on promoting the orderly development of small satellites” (Chinese) issued in May 2021 states that small satellites must be able to perform collision avoidance maneuvers as well as lower orbits after the end of missions. State departments can take relevant “appropriate action” if a company fails to track, report and deorbit its satellites.
Various commercial players, sometimes in association with state groups, are also developing low-Earth orbit constellations for communications, Remote sensing, navigation improvement and more.
The core of Kongtian Dongli’s staff comes from China’s state space sector, many of whom have previously engaged in domestic satellite electric propulsion research and development. The company is also engaged in the development of ramjet engines for military and civil uses.
China’s traditional space sector has demonstrated capabilities in ion propulsion, with the Shanghai Institute of Space Flight Power Machinery, Center for Space Science and Applications Research (CSSAR) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Lanzhou Institute of Physics have developed electric propulsion systems, some of which are now operational on the Chinese space station.
Northwestern Polytechnic University, Beihang University and Tsinghua University are also involved in the research.
Spacety, a small satellite company based in Changsha, has achieved tried iodine propellants developed by the French startup ThrustMe have been put into orbit, and has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Italian propulsion company T4i.
Spacety recently tested a xenon thruster provided by state-owned giant China Electronics Technology Group (CETC) on its Chaohu-1 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite. Spacety is working with CETC institute 38 to build a 96″ satellitetianxianSAR Constellation.
China has been looking to foster a commercial sector with sustainable supply chains and ecosystems, including launch, small satellites and downstream applications.
Electric propulsion is another area where new capabilities and mass manufacturing are required to support nascent commercial space activities, and others, including space situational awareness (SSA), are likely to see new entrants as space growth grows. sector.