Chinese commercial rocket company reaches new heights with latest funding round

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BEIJING, June 29 (Reuters) - Chinese commercial rocket launch company ExPace has raised 1.59 billion yuan ($237 million), the largest funding round for such a company in recent years.

Wuhan-based ExPace, a subsidiary of state-owned spacecraft and missile manufacturer China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC), announced on Monday the conclusion of its Series B funding round, which began in early 2021.

"This round of fund-raising will be mainly used for launch vehicle R&D and performance improvement, key technology research and engine development for liquid propulsion, and the construction of secure R&D (facilities)," the company wrote on its official WeChat account.

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The amount raised is the largest-ever for a Chinese commercial rocket launch company, highlighting the rapid growth of the overall space sector.

Since the government began to allow private investment in China's space industry in 2014, commercial companies have rushed into the sector, with the majority focusing on making satellites and the rest attempting to build rockets.

Some are privately funded while others have strong ties to state-owned enterprises, such as ExPace.

ExPace's latest funding round, while unprecedented in amount, still lags behind that of Western counterparts like SpaceX, founded by Tesla (TSLA.O) CEO Elon Musk. The company's latest funding round fetched $1.68 billion.

China envisions constellations of commercial satellites that can offer services ranging from high-speed internet for aircraft to tracking coal shipments.

ExPace said on Monday that in the six years since its founding it has completed 13 launches and sent 23 satellites into orbit.

ExPace's Series A funding round in 2017 raised 1.2 billion yuan ($179 million).

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Reporting by Eduardo Baptista; editing by David Evans

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