Sitting in a plush meeting room in the west of Beijing, Yin Liming, president of China Great Wall Industry Corp, the main supplier of Chinese launch services, satellites and other space products to the international market, expounds on the virtues and successes of his company and their aims for the next five years. China had just successfully launched its second lunar probe, the Chang'e-2, which is orbiting the moon, and only days later the space community celebrated the launch of the sixth satellite of an eventual 35 that will form a home-grown satellite navigation and positioning network aimed at rivalling the US-made Global Positioning System. It seems a good time for the Chinese space industry. 'For the past five years, we have conducted one or two commercial launches every year - about 5 per cent of global market share,' Yin said, adding that the company was aiming for a 10 per cent share by 2015. Yet, while national space development is making headlines, the commercial side of the industry is still struggling, hobbled by a patchy track record and a US trade ban on the use of US-made equipment in Chinese satellites and even the sale of US technology to companies that would later launch in China. These barriers, along with the uncertainty that many in the international community still feel about Chinese-made space technology, have left limited markets in which China can compete. While the larger and more established satellite makers, such as US-based Lockheed Martin , Boeing and French-based Thales Alenia Space, compete in the open market for expensive contracts, China is left primarily with its domestic demand and that of developing nations with not enough money to be picky. 'In the 1990s, our percentage of global launch services was around 10 per cent of the entire market, according to our own estimates. After 1999, due to the political barrier, our market share was reduced significantly,' Yin said. That is an understatement. Throughout the 1990s, China launched 27 international satellites of both US and European manufacture. Following the failed launch of a US-made satellite in 1996 and the implementation of the trade ban, there were no further international commercial satellite launches from Chinese soil until 2007, when a Nigerian communications satellite, made using entirely Chinese parts, was sent into space. That this satellite failed in November 2008 due to a solar panel breakdown has not helped the cause of China's commercial space industry. Nor have rumours, first published by the South China Morning Post in December 2008 but strenuously denied by China Great Wall, that China's second foray back into the international commercial industry, a Chinese-made communications satellite for Venezuela, had serious operational glitches. A replacement for the Nigerian satellite is being built, while any problems concerning the Venezuelan satellite seem to be under control. Further deals have now been signed with Pakistan, Bolivia and Laos to make and launch satellites for their domestic needs over the next few years. There is also talk of China helping Ecuador, Myanmar, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and several African nations get started along the road to satellite usage. 'China has been successful in using this roadblock to go to countries where they want to secure natural resources and minerals, or countries who have difficulties affording or getting their own satellites,' said Patrick French, senior analyst and head of the Singapore office at NSR, a telecommunications market research and consulting company. 'They are able to offer a whole package in exchange for resources or other political considerations.' For developing nations such as Pakistan and Bolivia, the cost of buying a communications satellite is prohibitively high - anywhere between US$200 million and US$300 million, not including launch costs. So, not only is China offering satellites at a cheaper price than their Western rivals, it is also offering countries the loans they need to cover almost the entire cost of the projects. When the deal to manufacture and launch Pakistan's first communications satellite was announced in August 2008, with a projected cost of US$212 million, news also broke that the two countries had simultaneously signed a deal for a US$200 million construction loan. Likewise, when the Bolivian deal was announced in April this year, media around the world reported that a Chinese loan would cover 85 per cent of the US$300 million project's costs, with the rest of the funding to be provided by the Bolivian government. This was necessary since the recently established Bolivian space agency was given an initial budget of just US$1 million. 'Good relations between two governments can help us expand our position more quickly,' said Yin, though he maintained that this type of government involvement was common among commercial space powers. That China is offering the technology and the loans for developing nations to be able to afford their own communication satellites means that, for at least the next few years, there will be a small but steady number of satellites being made and launched in China. However, this will not address concerns over the quality of the technology. 'China's commercial space industry remains way off the standards of the Western space industry,' said Gao Yunfeng, a professor at Tsinghua University's School of Aerospace. 'Economically speaking, selling our satellites and using mainland launch sites can make money, but we need to focus on the development of the entire space industry.' Gao points specifically to the ubiquitous role that the central government plays in the industry - to its detriment. 'Investment in research has always come from the central government, with little social capital being harnessed. China also declined investment attempts from Hong Kong in the early years,' he said, suggesting this was a mistake. Without private expertise and outside knowledge, China's growth in the industry is likely to remain slow and beset by errors. Roger Rusch, president of TelAstra, a California-based satellite consulting firm, said: 'I have heard of cases where the power supply had problems and where satellites were failing after three years rather than the 15-year expected lifespan. 'China needs to produce a steady stream of functional satellites with almost no examples of satellites failing within 10 years.' Yin said: 'We have experienced some problems with prior communications satellites, but looking worldwide at our Western counterparts, they also had similar problems during their development.' While China's satellite technology still has many unanswered questions, its launch capability is generally considered to be equal to anything available elsewhere, and at a considerably lower price. The Long March rockets used by China to launch domestic satellites, as well as the few dozen foreign satellites since 1990, have been trustworthy for four decades. There have been over 130 launches to date with a 94 per cent success rate, according to officials at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, and with a new launch site set to go into operation in 2015, the country's fourth, the number of launches could increase dramatically. 'There is a good market demand for Long March launch vehicles; the only constraint is the political barriers. Without these barriers we can have a good [market] share,' Yin said. French said: 'You will hear Great Wall Corporation complain that it is not a level playing field. 'This is true, but conversely the Chinese market is not at all open to foreign manufacturers or launchers. It cuts both ways.' One company that has tried to enter the Chinese market, or at least to create satellites able to be launched from China, is Thales Alenia, Europe's leading satellite manufacturer. Seeing the cost benefits of launching from China, as well as the eventual possibility of supplying satellites to the Chinese domestic market, Thales Alenia came out with a satellite in 2005 that contained no US parts. Four of these satellites have already been launched, and another is scheduled to be launched next year. Even so, China's share of the satellite production and launch market is likely to remain low for the foreseeable future. 'Overall there is a global market for 25-35 satellites a year, with 60-70 per cent of these going to the largest operators; buyers prioritising good quality over cheaper prices,' said Rusch. 'That leaves 30-40 per cent coming from smaller markets - about six to seven satellites a year - and it is rare for one manufacturer to hold more than 25 per cent of the market since others will keep undercutting prices.' Despite this, Rusch says everyone in the communications satellite industry expects China and India to be big players, and 'the only question is when'. For Yin and his colleagues in their plush Beijing offices, it can't be soon enough.