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China’s space:: station emerges as competitor to commercial ventures

Companies involved with commercial activities on the International Space Station or planning their own space stations may face a new competitor in China’s new space station.

During a presentation at the ISS Research and Development Conference Aug. 4, Jeff Manber, chief executive of Nanoracks, said his company has already lost business to China and its space station.

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I lost a customer, my first customer that I lost going to the Chinese space station,” he said. “We’re in a competition now.”

He did not identify the customer or what they had planned to do. Nanoracks has several lines of business on the ISS today, from hosting experiments and external payloads to using the station as a platform for launching small satellites.

Chinese officials have said they are open to cooperating with other countries regarding use of the station. Ji Qiming, assistant director of the China Manned Space Agency, told China Daily in June that it had selected nine scientific projects from 17 countries to fly on the station, and was working with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs to identify others. That could also include flying astronauts from other countries to the station.

Manber said that was a reminder for the need of U.S. leadership to attract international users of the ISS. “There should be no question that these are important ways that we keep not only that soft leadership, American leadership, but how we learn and how capital flows,” he said. “If we don’t, we open the door to other to come in and take leadership.

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