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Commercial uses of the Beidou constellation (2/2)

Commercial uses of the Beidou constellation (2/2)

This summary was produced by Lucie Senechal-Perrouault, PhD student at CNRS.

CGTN featuring at the International Astronautical Congress

From 12 au 14 october 2020, the 71 edition of the International Astronautical Congress (IAF), originally planned in Dubai was held online, providing free access to this important event for the international space community. If we have retained the exit of the president of the Russian space agency Dmitry Rogozin on the unilateral nature of the American approach to lunar exploration in the light of the Artemis agreements, another round table, hosted by CGTN under the title A new era in commercial space, went relatively unnoticed.

The show, now available on Youtube, yet mixes the useful with the pleasant. Carried by a futuristic staging, it is as full of special effects as it is of political protrusions, revealing official Chinese positions at the time. Starting with its title, reference to Xi Jinping's thought of an economy with Chinese characteristics for a new era (Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era).

The show is hosted by the earthy Yue Zhou 悦邹 of Chinese national television CGTN, in the presence of Liu Le 刘乐, représentant de la division commerciale de China Volant Industry China Huateng Industry Co., Ltd., subsidiary of the state conglomerate CASIC, and Xu Kevin Yawei 徐亚伟 general marketing manager of Landspace, well-known launcher start-up. Among the international guests, IAC President Pascale Ehrenfreud, Russian and Indian public sector representatives, Clayton Mowry, Blue Origin representative, and the founder of a young agricultural space applications company in Uruguay. They invited to answer broad questions : place of space in human activities, earth orbit congestion, exploitation of extraterrestrial resources etc.. around the theme of commercial space.

Evoking pitchers, the presenter exclaims : « in fact, it's not just governments that make rockets ! » before presenting 6 models : GSLV, small indian pitcher, Zhuque 2, landspace model, Soyuz 2, Ariane 5, New Glenn de Blue Origin, Long March 9. You may be surprised at the selection, which includes state initiatives (GSLV, Soyuz, Ariane, LM still in development phase) alongside start-ups (Landspace et Blue Origin).

Beyond highlighting national capacities, this strange classification also goes in the direction of a Chinese conception of New Space where the borders between the private and public sectors are porous, design that drives the show. « Speaking of competition and cooperation, American business enterprises, like Blue Origin and SpaceX, cooperate with NASA space capabilities… what do you think is the right balance in this area ? », Zhou Yue demands, nonchalantly, at Clayton Mowry.

Speaking to Liu Le, the latter confirms to him that it is a call from the government 2014, to businesses and the private financial system which has led to the emergence of at least 200 sector companies.

As a conclusion, the presenter gravely declaims : « the path to space development is not a black and white choice between government and business. As space commerce continues to grow, policy makers need to be more frugal, because the space is big. It's good to be where we are, but that won't stop us from going further ». The camera drifts, meditative, on the computer-generated meteorites that orbit around the plateau.

Space is a big place

The state guides, the market works

Chinese space is anchored in a model of cooperation and subordination between the government and the private sector, sometimes summarized as : the guiding state, le marché opère government guidance,Market operation. To follow up on the first analysis on the Beidou business applications, this article reviews the relationship between the state and companies in this area. If centralized decision-making makes it possible to articulate space with broader national policies, it also presents the risk of provoking an overbidding of local governments unrelated to the reality of an immature space market.


The Quotidien des sciences Science and Technology Daily conducted an interview with Fan Chunming 樊春明, doyen de l'Institut de navigation par satellite et d'ingénierie de l'information spatiale de l'Université de Minjiang et spécialiste de la navigation et du positionnement par satellite sur le theme: “What exactly are the “unique skills” of Beidou navigation? ”
His testimony notably addresses the relationship between the State and Beidou's space application companies.. The researcher insists on the leading role of the State: space systems are determined based on broad political and economic priorities, the research and orientation of funds. En l’occurrence, the author insists on the Digital China » Digital China, but we could also take the example of new silk roads.

« Only by making good use of Beidou in the application field can Beidou's excellent 'genes' be fully implemented.. In order to develop the satellite navigation application market, it is necessary, at the macro level, plan application systems, the associated technologies and services according to the characteristics of the satellite navigation system and its prospects for industrial application. Thereby, it is against the yardstick of ‘digital China’数字中国 that we must plan satellite navigation application systems and research on associated technologies and services. Only by doing well in transnational applications will we fully exploit the potential of Beidou.

There is a need to encourage research on satellite navigation and positioning technology to directly target transnational applications. In particular, government investment must leave room for trial and error 留出试错空间 for transnational innovation.

Likewise, in terms of planning and budgeting, the government must have the capacity to make transnational decisions. He must pay attention to and understand the needs, open the channels for the transmission of information and communication between the decision-making and operational levels, define the orientations to be given to the development of the industry as a whole on the basis of professional advice, make good use of the budget, encourage and incentivize private companies to play a greater role in the satellite navigation industry.

I trust that, under the guidance of a series of macroeconomic policies, Beidou industry will make important contributions to the national industrial transition 国家产业转型 and the construction of digital China. »

Fan Chunming, which also defends a centralist approach to space industrial policies, thus underlines at the same time that the decision-making level must take into account the ascending needs from the operational level.

Local application of priorities : shallot race and lark mirror

How to match political priorities with real demand? An article by Beijing Business Today Beijing Business Daily :”Beidou ascends to heaven, the shipping industry is in full bloom” gives answers.

Some local governments, applying the watchwords from the central power, seek to promote the development of activities related to space applications by creating dedicated 'innovation zones'. But this does not necessarily reflect a real entrepreneurial boom, nor does it guarantee the existence of a market.

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