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Private rocket puts satellite into orbit

Zhao Lei
Updated: Nov 09,2020 08:52    China Daily

China's private space sector unveiled a new type of carrier rocket over the weekend.

The CERES 1, designed and built by Beijing-based space startup Galactic Energy, made its debut flight on Nov 7 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China, becoming the second privately developed Chinese carrier rocket to successfully realize an orbital mission.

The 19-meter, solid-propellant rocket blasted off at 3:12 pm and flew for about 18 minutes before deploying a small communication satellite that will provide internet-of-things service to clients into a sun synchronous orbit about 500 kilometers above Earth, Galactic Energy said in a statement.

The mission also set a new height record for a private Chinese rocket. In July 2019, a SQX 1 solid-propellant rocket produced by i-Space, another private space company in Beijing, conducted the first successful orbital launch by a private Chinese rocket when it placed two satellites into an orbit 300 km above the ground.

An orbital mission is a powered flight by a carrier rocket that launches spacecraft into an orbit in outer space. Before i-Space and Galactic Energy, other Chinese private enterprises had failed in their attempts at orbital missions-a threshold for any serious newcomer in the global space sector that had only previously been crossed by the United States' SpaceX.

Galactic Energy said CERES 1 has four stages and is mainly propelled by solid propellant. With a liftoff weight of 31 metric tons, it is capable of sending a 300-kilogram satellite, or several satellites with a combined weight of 300 kg, to a 500-km sun synchronous orbit, or 350-kg payloads to a low-Earth orbit at an altitude of 200 km.

Galactic Energy was established in February 2018 by some engineers from State-owned space conglomerates.

Its engineers are designing a larger rocket that can be reused, the company said.

In addition to Galactic Energy and i-Space, other private rocket makers are also striving to build their own rockets for orbital launches.

A leader in the field is LandSpace, also based in Beijing, which is working on its 49.5-meter ZQ 2. The company said it will be China's largest and most powerful private rocket and will make its maiden flight next year.

It will boast a liftoff weight of 216 tons and will be capable of placing a 4-ton satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit or a 6-ton satellite into a low-Earth orbit, the company said.