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Why Lockheed Martin isn't worried about China launching tons of spacecrafts

Brian Sozzi

Lockheed Martin (LMT) says bring it on China, the more the merrier when it comes to the next space frontier.

“I think it’s good. We have plenty of technology and a great industry base in the U.S. and Europe and I am not worried about it. Let’s go make a great space economy,” Lockheed Martin executive vice president of space Richard Ambrose told Yahoo Finance on the ground at this year’s World Economic Forum. China indeed plans to bring their A-game on space in 2020, putting many U.S. companies in the space industry on notice.

China will send a record-setting 60 spacecrafts into orbit this year, per a plan released by the China Aerospace Science Technology Corporation a week ago. In 2019, China completed 34 space launches.

The country also revealed a plan for an unmanned mission to Mars by mid-year.

“It’s not a space race,” Ambrose said.

Added Ambrose, “For space to be viable, there has to be a vibrant marketplace like any other industry. We want many people in space, many countries in space. There are 75 space-faring nations today, and as we move forward supply chains and competitors for it to be vibrant we have to have that level of competition. When we go to space, we want to stay this time.”

A NASA Orion spacecraft lifts off from pad 46 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Tuesday, July 2, 2019, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. This launch is for a test of the capsule's launch abort system (LAS), which is a rocket-powered tower on top of the crew module built to very quickly get astronauts safely away from their launch vehicle if there is a problem during ascent. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

A logical view for sure. But for hardcore space watchers, seeing China so far out in front on spacecraft launches is akin to a kick to the gut. That’s especially in the wake of the Trump administration creating SpaceForce as the sixth branch of the military last year to promote space travel.

Nevertheless, developing space systems and spacecrafts (such as the Orion, which is poised for a manned mission to Mars by 2022) in concert with NASA is one of Lockheed’s most important — and historically relevant — businesses. The space segment made up about 18% of Lockheed’s sales in 2019 and roughly 19% of its operating profits. Despite China’s aggression in space, Lockheed is likely to be a big winner in the age of SpaceForce given its strong market positioning.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Watch The First Trade each day here at 9:00 a.m. ET. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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