China Great Wall Confounded By SpaceX Prices

// COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — China’s space industry remains hopeful it can do
business with the U.S., despite a renewed chill in relations. But executives at
China Great Wall Industry Corp. are finding it hard to believe that
California-based Space Exploration Technologies Inc. (SpaceX) is offering lower
launch prices than they can.

Lei Fanpei, vice president of the China Aerospace Science and Technology
Corp. (CAST), told the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs April 14
that despite the U.S. policy shift in 1999 that effectively shut down U.S.-China
trade in space products, China is still open for business.

“Committing to peaceful uses of outer space, CAST is willing to stress
exchanges and cooperation with various countries in the world transparently and
with [an] open mind,” Lei said through an interpreter. “I believe the China-U.S.
space cooperation, once initiated, will certainly bring immediate results to the
two countries’ space industries, providing more choices for customers from
different countries all over the world.”

Lei did not take questions, and declined an interview request. But colleagues
from China Great Wall, the marketing arm of CAST, say they are opening a
one-person office in Washington this summer to push Chinese space products,
including solar arrays.

Declining to speak for attribution, the Chinese officials say they find the
published prices on the SpaceX website very low for the services offered, and
concede they could not match them with the Long March series of launch vehicles
even if it were possible for them to launch satellites with U.S. components in
them.

According to the SpaceX website, launch on a Falcon 9 — which has an
advertised lift capacity of 10,450 kg. (23,000 lb.) — from Cape Canaveral costs
$54 million – $59.5 million.

Relations between the U.S. and China have cooled in recent months. Language
in the compromise fiscal 2011 funding measure working its way through Capitol
Hill prohibits NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
from cooperating with China in any way, including using public funds “to
effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to
or utilized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.”

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