China Successfully Launches Commercial Rocket from the Yellow Sea

China continues its impressive launch cadence in 2023, with five more launches taking place in the past few weeks. These launches include a barge launch from the Gushenxing-1S rocket and multiple launches of Yaogan satellites.

One of the recent launches involved the Gushenxing-1 rocket, which took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC) in China. This marks the fourth mission for the Gushenxing-1 rocket in 2023, demonstrating an increase in launch frequency. The payload for this mission was the Jilin-1 Kuangfu 02A satellite, which supports the Jilin-1 Earth observation constellation. These satellites have undergone a significant mass reduction, with each satellite now weighing just 230 kilograms compared to the previous 1,200 kilograms. The Jilin-1 satellites have a high-resolution imaging capability, able to capture images with a resolution of 0.5 meters over an area 150 kilometers wide. The goal of the Jilin-1 constellation is to image every inch of Earth’s surface every 10 minutes once it’s fully operational by 2030.

The Gushenxing-1 rocket is produced by Galactic Energy, a private spaceflight company. It is a four-stage rocket, with three stages powered by solid motors and the final stage using hydrazine for orbital insertion. The Gushenxing-1 rocket has a payload capacity of up to 400 kilograms to low Earth orbit.

Another series of launches involved the Yaogan satellites. These launches were part of the Yaogan-39 group and were carried out using the Chang Zheng 2D rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The purpose of these classified payloads, commonly referred to as “Yaogan” satellites, is remote sensing. However, China did not disclose the specific purposes of these satellites for this launch. The Chang Zheng 2D rocket stands 41 meters tall and is based on a hypergolic mixture of unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4).

The Gushenxing-1S rocket, a sea-launched version of the Gushenxing-1, was used in the launch of the Tianqi satellites. These satellites are part of the LEO Internet of Things communication constellation Tianqi, which supports various applications such as intelligent cities, smart agriculture, and emergency communication. The launch took place from a sea platform in the Yellow Sea, with the rocket loaded horizontally onto a barge before being erected vertically for launch.

Two more Yaogan launches were conducted recently using the Chang Zheng 4C rocket from the JSLC. These launches carried Yaogan 33-03, a remote sensing satellite used for various purposes such as science experiments, land resource census, and disaster monitoring. The Chang Zheng 4C rocket is a medium-sized launch vehicle this is frequently used for Earth observation satellite launches. It uses storable hypergolic dinitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine as its oxidizer and fuel.

Lastly, China launched the Yaogan 40 payload to a polar orbit using the Chang Zheng 6A rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. This payload consists of three reconnaissance satellites with unknown purposes officially reported as “electromagnetic environment probing.” This launch also featured a unique extended fairing, increasing the rocket’s length by almost 5 meters. The Chang Zheng 6A rocket is a two-stage rocket capable of lifting 5 metric tons into a polar orbit. China has recently signed a contract to launch more than 10 Chang Zheng 6A rockets per year.

China’s continued success in launching rockets and deploying satellites highlights its growing capabilities in the space industry. With a diverse range of payloads and applications, China is making significant progress in various fields such as Earth observation, remote sensing, and communication. As China aims to increase its launch frequency and expand its space activities, it will undoubtedly contribute to advancements in scientific research and technological innovation.

(Image source: CASC)