From a global perspective, the commercialization of the aerospace field is accelerating in an all-round way.
On Nov. 25, SpaceX was preparing to advance its Starship development to the next major stage: a 15-kilometer (50,000-foot) flight that would far exceed the largest previous Starship prototype. Test flight altitude. Previously, the company has embarked on a commercial crewed spaceflight mission carrying four astronauts from Kennedy Space Center into space. This is an important practice for commercial aerospace to explore the direction of manned spaceflight.
On the other hand, the domestic commercial aerospace industry has also made new progress. Recently, the first commercial aerospace industry base recently landed in Wuhan, Hubei Province. So far, 12 formal project investment agreements have been signed, with a total investment of 7.855 billion yuan; more than 50 framework agreements have been signed, with an intended investment of over 100 billion yuan. After the full deployment of Beidou-3, the competition in the domestic commercial space satellite field has also entered a new stage. This year, my country has even included satellite Internet in the scope of “new infrastructure”, and it has become a national strategic project. In the face of considerable development prospects, in recent years, a number of outstanding commercial aerospace companies have emerged in my country.
“The commercial satellite industry is still in the early stage of investment, and the entire market potential has not yet been fully explored. It is in a stage of rapid growth. Now it is basically a double-digit growth rate.” The reporter revealed in an exclusive interview that commercial satellites are already providing basic services for many industries, such as Beidou navigation for mobile phones, unmanned driving and other fields.
Commercial aerospace enters the fast lane
McKinsey pointed out in a report that by 2025, the global satellite Internet output value is expected to reach 560 billion to 850 billion US dollars. Up to now, the number of commercial aerospace enterprises in my country has exceeded 160, involving industries including rockets, satellites and other supporting and overall manufacturing, satellite measurement and control, ground equipment manufacturing, communication satellites and remote sensing satellite operation services. More and more private capital and entrepreneurs have begun to enter this field.
Before founding Shikong Daoyu, Wang Yang worked at the Institute of Microsatellite Innovation, Chinese Academy of Sciences for nearly ten years. As the first echelon of commercial satellite companies in China, Shikong Daoyu is affiliated to Geely Technology Group. At present, Shikong Daoyu has the capability of product-level design and mass production and delivery of microsatellites, and has accumulated more than 150 invention patents. In addition to satellite manufacturing, its business scope also covers the entire industrial chain of satellite ground equipment manufacturing, satellite operations and applications.
Among them, the core satellite application business consists of satellite operation service industry and ground equipment manufacturing industry, and the sum of the two accounted for 90.7% in 2019. Among them, the application service link is the most important source of profit, and it is also the biggest problem faced by private commercial aerospace.
“Commercial aerospace must first meet the needs of users, and then create value to make profits and survive. Our first goal is to become the first echelon in commercial aerospace satellite manufacturing, and the second goal is to build our own space positioning communication. In addition, around the application scenarios of commercial aerospace, we have carried out a layout for two years, with the goal of satellite manufacturing, space information infrastructure operation, and terminal solutions.” Wang Yang revealed that after the company’s second year of business, Positive cash flow has been formed.
In March this year, the company’s satellite production base in Taizhou City, Zhejiang Province has officially started. It covers satellite research and development center, component manufacturing center, measurement and control center, cloud computing big data platform and other facilities. It plans to invest 2.27 billion yuan and achieve an annual output of 500 satellites by 2025.
From technology research and development to offline factories, the industrial chain layout of the commercial satellite industry has become increasingly dense. “The factory is actually the core barrier, accounting for about 10% of the entire R&D cost, which is not too high.” Wang Yang explained that the current industry competition is not fierce, although there are many commercial satellite companies, but there are basic R&D capabilities. There are not many, and everyone will not rashly challenge this track.
Accelerate the development of industrial chain clusters
Since the beginning of the year, a number of private satellite companies have successively built satellite factories in order to achieve large-scale production, but supply chain bottlenecks have restricted mass production goals.
“The satellite industry involves rocket manufacturing, propellant production, satellite manufacturing, satellite launch, satellite applications (communication, navigation, remote sensing) and other links. The application industry chain is actually very long. There are already hundreds of satellites in operation in China. How to make good use of these satellites to develop and create greater commercial value is the focus of the current satellite application industry and the market.” Wang Yang further added.
In the future, to develop the commercial satellite industry, it is also necessary to strengthen the guidance of industrial chain clusters. In terms of satellite manufacturing, the development, design, key materials and stand-alone fields of various types of satellites have also derived relevant opportunities in the industrial chain. In addition to increased rocket capacity, launch scheduling, and a more mature supply chain, mature data services will also have a positive impact on the industry.
The Huatai Securities analysis report believes that the design, R&D and manufacturing of satellites have high barriers to entry and require a lot of financial investment and technology accumulation. , which has pushed up the cost of satellite manufacturing and raised the threshold for capital investment in the satellite industry chain, hindering the development of commercial aerospace to a certain extent. With the continuous maturity of aerospace technology and the continuous reduction of space launch costs, the application potential of microsatellites has been continuously tapped due to the advantages of short development cycle, low cost, and flexible launch methods, and will receive more and more attention.
According to a research report by Space Angels, an early-stage investment institution in the aerospace field, the financing of global aerospace startups has increased year by year since 2009. In the past ten years, a total of more than 530 startups have received financing, with a total amount of about 25.7 billion US dollars. In terms of satellite and application industries, in October this year, China Aerospace Science and Industry issued the “14th Five-Year” development plan, which emphasized that it is necessary to promote the layout of the satellite low-cost mass manufacturing industry chain, continue to develop serialized characteristic payload products, and promote space information application services. National economic and social development, serving the daily life of the public.
At the same time, Lei Kaiping, executive deputy director of the Military-Civil Integration Office of the Sichuan Provincial Party Committee, mentioned that the problems of the Beidou industry include insufficient coordination and integration of resources and forces, insufficient spatial and geographic information integration, and insufficient public perception. This is reflected in the lack of effective integration of Beidou navigation and high-scoring, satellite communication, ground information and other data information, and the role and benefits of Beidou spatiotemporal big data have not been fully brought into play.
In the near future, 60% of the self-driving cars in the Chinese market will realize the unmanned shared travel mode, which will be a strong proof of the value of Beidou spatiotemporal data. In the future, the low-orbit satellite constellation based on the Beidou system will provide higher-precision positioning services as application support.
Shikong Daoyu is also actively participating in the demonstration of the next-generation Beidou navigation satellite system. Wang Yang planned a “full-stack satellite open source plan” in his mind. In the full-stack open source protocol standard system, the hardware is standardized and modularized to build an agile and scalable underlying system, and satellites as hardware also belong to this category; Under the support of a robust and open underlying system, it greatly reduces the complexity of developers accepting aerospace technology, and focuses on specific commercial application scenarios, so as to build a rich commercial aerospace format simply and flexibly.
In the future, commercial low-orbit satellites will also be widely used in smart transportation, UAV logistics, environmental monitoring and other B-ends, building an ecosystem that empowers all industries in China.