Space telescope rental joins China's sharing economy

2017.07 10

The commitment of China and its emerging companies to the sharing economy policy has now reached outer space, thanks to the initiative of a company that designs a telescope that can be rented by astronomy buffs.

"We want everyone to be able to access that technology because the satellites are very expensive and are beyond the reach of most people," Feng Yang, president of Chinese company Spacety, a nanosatellites manufacturer, told EFE.

The telescope will be launched into space on a satellite, and its functions can be controlled by users via its website, which will allow them to browse for images they want to obtain.

The company's objective is to bring space to ordinary people as well as to create opportunities for those interested in areas such as astronomy to investigate or simply to enjoy their passion without having to pay the high costs.

"At a dinner with my two friends who are astronomy enthusiasts, I realized that they always spent a lot of money on telescopes and that surprised me a lot. They spent a million yuan for a telescope ($147,000)," he said.

After the conversation with his friends, he concluded that if he could put a telescope into space, in the style of a mini-Hubble, "the images that can be captured are going to be better."

According to Feng, this is the first company in the world that will introduce such a business model, since "Hubble belongs to the US government."

"There is no telescope that is open for everyone. With ours, anyone in the world can get to our website, control the telescope in space and take a look at wherever they want," he said.

Although the exact amount is currently unknown, the investment in the project is expected to be more than 10 million yuan ($1,470,000), which Feng is not interested in recovering fully from the profit this business will yield.

"I don't want to make money on this project. I want to find users. We want to reduce the cost and make the user pay less than one thousand yuan per hour ($147). We want it to have many users," Feng added.

This idea, the entrepreneur said, is in line with China's prominent interest in promoting the "sharing economy" policy, aimed at distributing resources of everyday things to reduce costs and allowing people to enjoy services that were previously unaffordable.

Thanks to mobile applications and advanced technologies, this kind of economy is becoming a new way of life to which more and more people are adapting in China, a country where hundreds of emerging companies are springing up offering various shared services.

That is why the Chinese government is betting heavily on the sharing economy and sees this sector as its strength to boost economic growth, since this kind of economic strategy will contribute to 10 percent of China's economic output by 2020, compared with almost 3 percent in 2015, according to the government's projections.

In 2016, about 600 million people participated in this economy, and about 5.85 million people worked in companies related to this sector.

In addition, its turnover in 2016 reached 3.45 trillion yuan, showing a 103 percent increase over the previous year.

Despite the flourishing of these companies, there have been some side effects as well, for example, many people do not seem to have understood how these companies function, which in fact involves the user renting something for a certain time at a very low price and then returning it.

In recent weeks, several bicycle companies have had to close down as they could not cope with the bike robberies. Umbrella rental companies have also been hit, and a company recently claimed that about 30,000 of their umbrellas were missing.