The Long March Into Space

While private actors drive the space industry in the West, China’s state-led approach continues to bear fruit.

Human activity in space is undergoing a transformation. For most of the 20th century, this frontier was dominated by state-backed space programs with specific and limited scientific, military, or prestige-building goals. Now, private citizens are reaching orbit under their own power. Much ink has been spilled over new private space companies in the West, especially SpaceX and Blue Origin. Projections suggest increasingly reusable super heavy-lift launch vehicles could reduce cost-to-orbit by several orders of magnitude.

Though the stories of the American and Russian national space programs from the Space Race to the modern day are still recognized as important, the industry is no longer driven by governments, but rather by private actors. The reverse is true, however, of perhaps the most important rising power in the space industry: China.

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