If China does pass legislation next year enabling the public private partnerships (PPP) Flight International has been informed are planned for its spaceflight programme, a new space race based on market share, not planting flags, could be emerging - and China would be a market leader.

Russia sends mega-rich spaceflight participants to the International Space Station (ISS) NASA is in partnership to develop ISS cargo transport systems and is offering private research space aboard the station while the European Space Agency has made PPP progress with the HYLAS satellite. Chinese spaceport privatisation and Shenzou based research would be a step beyond the other agencies, making it a leader. However it does not mean the Chinese want to increase state spending.

Rather the opposite. Having achieved manned spaceflight China may be hesitant to pay for another great leap. Officials no longer talk about a previously much publicised third manned mission, to include a spacewalk, taking place in 2008. Delayed once already from this year, officials now talk about the end of the decade.

While its Chang'e 1 lunar orbiter, launched last week, scans the surface of the Moon, the world's most populous nation could really be looking for a return on its investment. For China, it no longer matters if the rocket is public or private just as long as it has a revenue stream.

Source: Flight International