China Launch Surge Left U.S., Russia Behind in 2018

Long March 2F rocket in flight carrying Shenzhou-11. (Credit: CCTV)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.

China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.

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New Chinese Booster Launches 3 Satellites

Xinhua reports that a new Smart Dragon-1 booster launched three satellites into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on its maiden flight.

The rocket, developed by the China Rocket Co. Ltd. affiliated to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALVT), blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 12:11 p.m. (Beijing Time).

The three satellites, respectively developed by three Beijing-based companies, will be used for remote sensing services, communication and Internet of Things.

Different from the carrier rockets of the Long March family, the new Dragon series is developed in a commercial mode to meet the market demand of launching small commercial satellites, said Wang Xiaojun, head of CALVT.

The SD-1, with a total length of 19.5 meters, a diameter of 1.2 meters, and a takeoff weight of about 23.1 tonnes, is a small-scale solid-propellant carrier rocket capable of sending 200 kg payloads to the solar synchronous orbit at an altitude of 500 km.

China Goes All-in on Sea Launch

Already operating four spaceports (three of which drop stages over land), China will construct a new port to facilitate launches from an off-shore submersible platform, China Daily reports.

The State-owned space conglomerate China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp is working with the eastern coastal province of Shandong to start construction of a port for sea-based space launches before the end of this year.

The Beijing-based space giant said on Tuesday that during a recent visit by Ling Wen, deputy governor of Shandong, to the company’s headquarters, a strategic cooperation framework agreement was signed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, city government of Yantai, and Shenzhen-headquartered China International Marine Containers Group to jointly build an eastern coastal space port in Haiyang, a city administered by Yantai.

The project will make use of Yantai’s unique location, existing harbors and local space research and marine engineering facilities. Upon completion, the port will consist of support facilities for sea-based space missions and four research and production centers for carrier rockets, satellite equipment, sea-launch platforms as well as satellite data and applications.

China launched a Long March 11 from a submersible platform in June.

Chinese Examining Reusable Rockets

Long March 5 on the launch pad. (Credit: China National Space Administration)

Like SpazceX and Blue Origin, China is examining whether it can develop reusable launch vehicles.

China is developing a system to recover parts of rockets used in space launches to bring down costs and make its space programme more commercially competitive, according to researchers involved in the project.

The system would bring the rocket engine and booster safely back to the ground so they can be reused in future launches. Besides saving operational costs, the recovery would also reduce the threat of debris falling to the ground, the researchers said.

The recovery system is under development at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing.

It involves using a set of multiple parachutes, which are stored in the first stage of the rocket, which is released from the rest of the craft before it burns its way through the Earth’s atmosphere….

in an article on the academy’s website, Deng Xinyu, a researcher on the Chinese rocket recovery programme, said that vertical landing involved many challenges and was extremely difficult to achieve.

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China Developing Air Launched Booster for Small Satellites

Look out Virgin Galactic, Orbital ATK, Generation Orbit, Stratolaunch Systems and zero2infinity! The air launch business is about to get crowded.

China is developed an air-launched rocket to launch small satellites.

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology has designed a solid-fuel rocket that could carry a 100kg payload into low Earth orbit, said Li Tongyu, the head of the agency’s carrier rocket development.

Li said the rockets would be carried by large Y-20 strategic transport planes before launch and that the academy planned to eventually develop a larger rocket that could carry a 200kg payload.

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