In a new investment round disclosed Monday, Chinese startup Space Transportation secured over $46.3 million for the hypersonic spaceplane plans. According to a press statement, Space Transportation, formally known as Beijing Lingkong Tianxing Technology Company Ltd., has finalized its third funding phase, raising more than 300 million yuan.
The funding will be used to create commercial hypersonic and suborbital vehicles, with Space Transportation laying out a 10-year plan for reusable vehicles development. Through 2022, the company plans a series of large-scale technological verification flights, with a first flight of the suborbital space tourism vehicle concept in 2023 and a crewed test in 2025.
The first “global” hypersonic vehicle mission will take place in 2028, followed by a full-scale worldwide hypersonic vehicle flight in 2030. So far, the most prominent action from Space Transportation has been a test flight of Jiageng-1, a 3,700-kilogram technology demonstration, in April 2019. The test was conducted in collaboration with Xiamen University and occurred only a few months after the university’s establishment in August 2018.
In November 2020, the business test-fired its Lingkong-1 engine, and earlier this year, it tested landing gear, but it is likely to confront various technological obstacles in building its vehicles. Previous portrayals of its “Tianxing” spaceplane line differ from the new renders revealed with the funding announcement.
According to Space Transportation, Hypersonic flight technology is a “fresh commanding height” of the aerospace technology in twenty-first century, with “great commercial value.” It claims to be the sole Chinese high-tech venture engaged in advancing and implementing commercial hypersonic flight products.
However, Space Transportation’s vision appears to be one of several Chinese hypersonic spaceplane schemes. Since September 2020, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the country’s major space contractor, has conducted two tests relating to “reusable experimental spacecraft,” while sister firm CASIC is also constructing a spaceplane called Tengyun. In addition to building its Hyperbola rocket series, Chinese commercial enterprise iSpace has stated that it wants to launch a spaceplane.
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle reached the edge of space last month after nearly 17 years of development. Matrix Partners China and Shanghai Guosheng Group, a prominent state capital investor, led the financing. Matrix has made significant investments in several Chinese commercial space enterprises, including iSpace, Changguang Satellite, Oriental Space, Landspace, and Spacety, a new launch startup.
Current shareholders Volcanics Venture, Source Code Capital, and others increased their investments in the round as well. This year, the new cash is the latest in a series of big fundraising rounds secured by Chinese commercial and private space companies. Many of them have been focused on launch-related companies and satellite producers.