China's first spaceport for commercial launches starts construction in Wenchang, Hainan
Published: Jul 06, 2022 11:07 PM

China's first spaceport for commercial launches started construction on Wednesday in Wenchang, South China's Hainan Province. As another major aerospace project of the Hainan Free Trade Port (FTP), the Hainan Commercial Space Launch Site will help build Wenchang into a world-class space city, an official said on Wednesday during the groundbreaking ceremony.

Industry insiders said that the Hainan Commercial Launch Site will further improve the launching capability of domestic commercial carrier rockets.

"Hainan will make full use of the synergistic advantage of the launch site and policies of the FTP, striving to build Wenchang into a top-ranking international space city, and to accelerate the construction of industrial chains of rocket launch, satellite and data," Feng Fei, governor of the Hainan provincial government, said on Wednesday during the groundbreaking ceremony of the commercial spacecraft launch site.

The commercial launch site will be built in a separate part of the current Wenchang International Aerospace City, an employee of the administrative bureau of the aerospace city told the Global Times on Wednesday.

According to the website of Wenchang International Aerospace City, which is one of the 11 key zones of the Hainan FTZ, the new commercial spaceport is a step forward in its commercial space launch function.

The Wenchang International Aerospace City said in June that it aimed to achieve regular commercial launches in the first half of 2024. At the same time, the commercial carrier rocket assembly test plant is planned to be put into use by the end of 2023 and the satellite assembly test plant by the end of 2022.

Construction on the aerospace city started in April 2020, when China's top economic planner for the first time included the aerospace industry in the new infrastructure category. The aerospace industry is one of the future industries of Hainan FTP.

Since satellite networks were incorporated into the scope of new infrastructure construction, the scale of the commercial launch market has been expanding, but there is still a big gap in the existing rocket launch capacity, which brings more opportunities for private commercial rocket enterprises, an engineer from an aerospace institute told the Global Times on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

The size of China's commercial space market is expected to exceed 1.5 trillion yuan ($224 billion) in 2022. But the number of commercial space launch sites accounted for just 5 percent of the 55 missions in 2021, the engineer explained.

"Enterprises will help the coordinated and healthy development of the industry by formulating an ecosystem for upstream and downstream industries, especially in promoting the cooperation of education, research and production," said the engineer.

China explicitly began encouraging private enterprises to develop the commercial space industry in 2015. And in just seven years, China's commercial aerospace industry has already taken shape, covering many fields such as rocket launches, satellite and ground equipment development, satellite operation and satellite application.

The Hainan Commercial Space Launch Site will be constructed by Hainan International Commercial Space Launch Co., Ltd., which was registered on June 2, jointly funded by the Hainan provincial government, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, and China Satellite Network Group Corporation.

Meanwhile, the construction of a space tourism theme park and a space museum will be accelerated in Wenchang, according to the Wenchang International Aerospace City.