China launches 14 satellites with new solid rocket from mobile sea platform

HELSINKI (Reuters) – China launched its new Jielong-3 rocket from a mobile maritime platform in the Yellow Sea on Friday, successfully sending 14 satellites into orbit.

The Jielong-3 (“Smart Dragon-3”) took off at 01:35 a.m. Eastern Time (06:35 UTC) on December 9 from the modified barge Tai Rui off the Yellow Sea.

The mission carried out eight satellites developed by commercial remote sensing company Changguang Satellite Technology, designated as Jilin-1 Gaofen 03D 44-50 remote sensing satellite and Jilin-1 Pingtai 01A01 satellites. The latter is a new satellite platform adaptable to the needs of remote sensing, communication or navigation.

Also on board the launch were the Fengtai satellite Shaonian-2 (CAS-5A), Head-2H, the Golden Bauhinia-1 satellites 05 and 06, Tianqi-07, and Torch-1a first life science experimentation satellite for a private company Rocket Pi.

The four-stage rocket can carry 1,500 kilograms of payload into a 500-kilometre sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) and was developed by China Rocket Co. Ltd.

Jielong-3 has close similarities in lift capacity, length and diameter (2.65 meters), payload fairing (3.35 meters) and take-off weight with the ZK-1A rocket developed and recently launched by a group from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

China Rocket is a commercial spin-off from CALT, a core launch vehicle manufacturing arm of state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), China’s leading space contractor.

Jiang Jie, Senior CALT Rocket Designer, said in March 2021 that the rocket would aim to bring the price of sending one kilogram into orbit down to $10,000, when producing 20 rockets per year.

This is China Rocket’s second launch, after the only launch of Jielong-1 in 2019. The planned development and launch stage of the Jielong-2 rocket – whose capabilities are very similar to those of the existing Long March 11 solid-state rocket – was apparently skipped.

chinese rocket declared Friday that he is working on a Jielong-4 rocket that would use a solid engine of 500 tons of thrust. Although not explicitly stated, such an engine has been tested by CCAC in 2021.

China has spear Long March 11 rockets from the Yellow Sea before. These launches were “cold” launches, with the rocket expelled from its container with a separate gas system. The Jielong-3 was the first launch in the China Sea, propelling itself from its launch cell with its own engines. The launch structure extends from the ship above the water, allowing for dissipation and suppression of rocket exhaust.

The mission highlights two distinct developments. First, China is committed to developing a range of solid rockets to increase its overall spatial capabilities.

“Overall, from a strategic perspective, mastering such a new capability gives China flexibility and redundancy, demonstrates technological prowess to the outside world, and creates important synergies for other non-space goals,” he said. Tomas Hrozensky, researcher at the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI), Told SpaceNews earlier this year.

Second, the growing role of sea-launch capabilities. Launch preparations were carried out at facilities near Haiyang in the eastern coastal province of Shandong, which provide another option for China to access space.

The Haiyang Spaceport both provides greater flexibility and reduces pressure on China’s major spaceports. The project also seeks to attract a range of companies from the space sector to foster a space industrial chain.

private companies, including Orientespace with its Gravity series rockets and Galactic Energy with the solid-state Ceres-1 rocket are planning sea launches. This is in addition to activities related to China Rocket and the state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), which is apparently working on a adapted Long March 8 launcher for sea launches.

China Rocket says it is working on new phases of building assembly and test facilities in Shandong and aims to reach an annual production capacity of 20 rockets by the end of 2023.

The launch was the 58th of 2022 in China, already topping the country record set in 2021.

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