From the liquid rocket to the realization of recyclability, the long-term doctrine of "Deep Blue Space"|Star Race

From the liquid rocket to the realization of recyclability, the long-term doctrine of “Deep Blue Space”|Star Race

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Text | Yang Xi

The ups and downs of 2020 have been bid farewell, and 2021 is starting.

At the beginning of last year, a sudden epidemic broke the original plans of many companies and gave birth to new business opportunities. Taking the commercial aerospace field as an example, the aerospace Internet is showing great value as the new infrastructure of the Internet in the future. At the same time, the state also supports the entry of private forces at the policy level, and huge market demand is emerging.

We have every reason to believe that a new round of aerospace competition is coming. At the beginning of 2021, 36氪Zhejiang specially planned the “Interstellar Race” series of reports, chatting with the best of the commercial aerospace circuit, reviewing the gains and losses in 2020, and discovering the trends and changes in 2021.

This article is one of them.

On Zhihu, there is a very popular post “How to evaluate SpaceX in 2020?” In the drop-down answer, one of them is “The rocket is done and everything goes smoothly.”

In 2020, SpaceX’s manned dragon spacecraft succeeded for the first time, opening the world’s commercial manned spaceflight era; Starlink approved 12,000 low-orbit satellite missions, and currently has about 1,000 completed.

SpaceX puts commercial aerospace under the bright light almost on its own.

In China, on the one hand, the satellite Internet has been incorporated into the new infrastructure, and on the other hand, the news that the Star Network Group has landed in Shanghai spread like wildfire, which has once again strengthened capital’s expectations for commercial aerospace. According to data from Tianyan Check, the total amount of new financing in China’s commercial aerospace sector in 2020 has exceeded 6 billion yuan, an increase of over 300% from 1.9 billion yuan in 2019.

Among these companies, Deep Blue Aerospace is a rare company that has conducted two rounds of financing of Pre-A and Pre-A+ within one year.

Deep Blue Aerospace was established in 2017. Its main business is commercial aerospace launch vehicle launch services, reusable launch vehicle products and related technology research and development. It has formulated commercial liquid launch vehicle products and launch services as the main line, launch vehicle related products and Service is an auxiliary company development strategy.

Low tide comes in, high tide comes out

In 2014, the national policy opened the mouth of commercial aerospace and issued the “Guiding Opinions on Investment and Financing Mechanisms in Key Fields of Innovation to Encourage Social Investment”, which brought structural opportunities for commercial aerospace and the entire industry chain gradually developed.

The blue ocean market with huge potential also means full of thorns. In 2017, when Deep Blue Aerospace was established, the domestic commercial aerospace engine supply chain situation has repeatedly emerged. There are only 30 or 40 private companies engaged in satellite-related businesses, of which less than 10 companies can truly manufacture rockets and satellites. The entire market is at a historical low.

Why choose low tide influx?

The founder of Deep Blue Aerospace, Huo Liang, believes that the cold in the industry is always a temporary problem. At that time, the industry’s focus was still on solid launch vehicles. Huo Liang judged based on his years of industry experience that liquid rockets were the future direction of development. Therefore, even if there are problems in the supply chain, it will not affect the long-term development of the industry.

Huo Liang, founder of Deep Blue Aerospace

For more than a year when the company was first established, Deep Blue Aerospace focused on market exploration and research and judgment. It didn’t really start rocket research and development until mid to late 2018.

At the beginning of 2020, the “Thunder-5” liquid rocket engine developed by Deep Blue Aerospace carried out the first variable thrust long-range test run, and the test was successful. It only took 8 months for the “Thunder-5” to complete the test run from the program design, which also made Deep Blue Aerospace the first private enterprise in the country to realize the test run of the open liquid oxygen kerosene engine and master the pin engine technology.

At the end of last year, Deep Blue Aerospace’s “Nebula-M” liquid recovery test rocket No. 1 was successfully launched and practiced together and entered the full-arrow recovery test phase. This year, Deep Blue Aerospace will carry out the static ignition test and “jump” flight of the “Nebula-M” No. 1 experimental arrow as planned.

The results have been fruitful, and we need to do our best.

Huo Liang told 36Kr Zhejiang that what Deep Blue Aerospace has been doing is how to achieve rocket launch and recovery more efficiently and at a lower cost. “Commercial aerospace, in the final analysis, is a high risk, high investment, long cycle, and high A return sale.”

Commercial aerospace, spring is coming?

The following is an interview with Huo Liang, the founder of 36Kr Zhejiang and Deep Blue Aerospace:

Technology: focus on rocket recovery, completely independent research and development

Q: Since the second half of 2018, the actual development time of Deep Blue has only been a little over 2 years. During this period, what have we achieved?

A: Let’s talk about the engine first. In 2019, we formed an engine team in Xi’an; in early 2020, the self-developed “Thunder-5” liquid rocket engine carried out the first variable thrust long-range test run, and the test was very successful. At the same time, we have built a cold test facility and a hot test bench for the rocket engine, which have been put into use.

In terms of cost, we rely on the socialized supply chain system in the Yangtze River Delta region and through technological innovation, while ensuring the reliability of rocket flight, we have greatly reduced production and manufacturing costs.

Q: How about the talent reserve of Deep Blue?

A: Our entire team has about 70 people, and technical personnel account for more than 85%. In the establishment of talent echelon, there are 7 doctors, nearly 30 masters, and more than 50% of them have master degree or above. The team members are mainly from Aerospace Science and Technology Group, Aerospace Science and Industry Group, AVIC, etc. They have solid theoretical foundation and rich engineering experience in the development of liquid launch vehicles, liquid rocket engines, and advanced space vehicles.

Q: Can you specifically talk about our development focus?

A: It is mainly liquid launch vehicle and its recovery and reuse technology, that is, the future space vehicle. At present, rocket recovery is at a turning point in history. Recovery is not the purpose. The purpose is to turn disposable rockets into reusable space vehicles. Although it has been more than 50 years since the first launch of a rocket in China, the shape, basic structure, and thrusters of the rocket have not changed significantly.

How can we meet the commercial needs of the future space economy and the needs of exploring and using outer space? Rockets must undergo subversion and reform, that is, to significantly reduce costs, improve reliability, and improve carrying capacity. Only in this way can we open the market and realize the exploration and utilization of space resources.

Q: Where are you now? What are the difficulties that need to be broken through?

A: In the rocket development stage, the Thunder-20 engine developed by us is about to complete the test run. The difficulty that needs to be broken is mainly related to the technical system of rocket recovery, which involves some engineering and technical difficulties; at present, there are few mature experiences in China and need to be completely independent research and development.

Q: Whether it is developing a liquid rocket engine or developing a recoverable rocket, it is essentially to reduce costs, right?

A: Yes, the cheaper the entrance to space through the launch vehicle, the more open the flow entrance. Only in this way can all commercial applications come in and form a real space economy ecology.

Schematic diagram of the structure of the Nebula-M test arrow, source/provided by the interviewed company

Q: What are the expansion plans for application scenarios?

A: At this stage, Deep Blue is still focusing on the design, development, and manufacturing of liquid recyclable launch vehicles, striving to provide customers with reliable, cheap and convenient launch services. In the future, with the maturity of technology and the gradual establishment of launch service capabilities, we will also consider expanding our business to the upstream and downstream of the industry chain and the transformation and application of aerospace technology.

Market: Two financings in a single year with a financing amount of over 100 million

Q: Mr. Huo has already talked about a lot of technical aspects, then let’s talk about financing. From the current external disclosure data, Deep Blue Aerospace has completed three financings.

A: Yes, including the angel round and the 2020 PreA and PreA+ financing.

Q: What was the main use of these two financings last year?

A: The Pre-A round of financing completed in 2020, led by Zhonghuijin Group, followed by Capiting Capital and Jiayi Fund. The funds are mainly used for core R&D team building, vertical recovery technology verification and liquid oxygen kerosene rocket engine In-depth testing. The Pre-A+ round of financing funds, in addition to the above, will also increase the construction of engine testing capabilities.

Q: It is also a great achievement for a start-up company to be able to finance two pens within a year.

A: This has a strong relationship with Deep Blue’s own development and the popularity of the entire industry. From the perspective of the international situation, due to the impact of the epidemic, the overall economic environment of commercial aerospace is not ideal; however, the domestic market is full of vitality. First of all, now is a critical period for the conversion of new and old kinetic energy; secondly, China is paying more and more attention to science and technology as its core competitiveness; in addition, commercial aerospace, as a strategic blue ocean industry, is showing its strength and broad prospects.

Q: Although Deep Blue Aerospace has not entered the commercial operation stage, which customer groups does it plan to serve in the future?

A: Intended customers are mainly emerging private satellite companies and meet the needs of national deployment of low-orbit satellites and micro-nano satellites.

Q: 2021 will officially kick off. What plans does the company have?

A: In 2021, our main task is to accelerate the progress of research and development, and strive to achieve the complete test run of the Thunder-20 rocket engine and the first flight of the Nebula-1 carrier rocket into orbit as soon as possible. The main work in 2021 includes further testing of the engine, as well as the realization of the entire rocket assembly and testing of the Nebula-1 launch vehicle.

Industry: three key words, environment, commercial landing, technical barriers

Q: There is an old saying: “One day in the sky, ten years underground.” Although it is a myth and legend, when applied to the aerospace information industry, it can also be seen that technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. You are in the industry. What do you think is the biggest change in the past few years?

A: The biggest change is that everyone pays more attention to the aerospace information industry and has a stronger awareness of the overall industry. As everyone continues to be optimistic about the future market prospects of the aerospace information industry, government and capital support and investment in aerospace information industry enterprises have become broader and deeper.

We have entered the era of aerospace information. With the advancement of aerospace network technology and the integration and development of communication, navigation, and remote sensing technologies, the development of aerospace information industry has also ushered in major opportunities. At the same time, it has also brought more opportunities to commercial aerospace companies. possibility. It can be said that the entire aerospace information industry is making every effort to accelerate its progress. Rocket manufacturing companies such as Deep Blue Aerospace are also trying their best to explore the stability of the commercial aerospace transportation industry, the reduction of costs, as well as the “new infrastructure” of information technology. Safety and reliability.

Q: What are the substantive problems that aerospace information technology has solved in the fields it has entered?

A: The aerospace industry technology and products are widely used in communications, meteorology, navigation and positioning, agriculture, forestry, fishery, geological and marine exploration, traffic management, disaster monitoring and forecasting, national defense and other fields, which have contributed to the development of national economy and social civilization. Plays an increasingly important role.

Q: Compared with the United States and other countries, where is the gap between us and others in business?

A: It can be said from three aspects: environment, commercial landing, and technical barriers.

Environmentally, foreign and domestic national conditions are different. The commercial aerospace industry in the United States has always been a commercial industry with relatively complete laws and regulations and market ecology, including insurance liability compensation, procurement models, and industry rules.

Secondly, Musk has reduced the cost of rockets and satellites by an order of magnitude, making it a product that can be used by B-end and even C-end users. China also has a full range of technologies in the aerospace field, but compared with Musk, the cost is still high, resulting in certain restrictions on commercial landing.

In addition, the original domestic aerospace technology was mainly used for the establishment of the national defense industry system, with fewer civilian applications. There is a natural technological gap between the “national team” and private enterprises. However, the country has already supported commercial aerospace in terms of policies and launched an “ice-breaking” operation. In the future, more and more talents and technologies will flood into the commercial aerospace field.

Q: What do you think of the development of the aerospace information industry in the next 3-5 years?

A: With the gradual implementation of national Internet technology, the domestic aerospace information industry will usher in a new wave of vigorous development in the next 3-5 years. The emerging domestic private aerospace information industry ecology will play an important role and play an important role in the process of promoting the development of this industry.

The 36Kr Zhejiang “Interstellar Race” series of special reports is now open for registration. If you have been deeply involved in the aerospace industry for many years, and you want the outside world to know the latest developments of the company in 2021, please contact us. We will select excellent start-up companies to report. The distance between us and you is only one QR code.

36 Krypton Zhejiang

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