Russia and China complete launches

Both Russia and a pseudo-commercial Chinese company today completed launches.

Russia used its Soyuz-2 rocket to launch a military reconnaissance satellite for Iran, along with 16 Russian smallsats. The rocket was originally going to launch a South Korean satellite, but that launch was cancelled due to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.

In China, the pseudo-company Galactic Energy used its four-stage Ceres-1 rocket to place three Earth observations satellites into orbit. Because three of the rocket’s four stages use solid rocket motors, they were likely reworked from military applications. Thus, Galactic Energy does nothing without the full approval and supervision of the Chinese government. It might have been funded privately, and focused on making profits, but it really owns nothing it builds.

Nonetheless, this was its third successful orbital launch, making it the most successful of these Chinese pseudo-companies. It is also developing a Falcon 9 clone rocket dubbed Pallas-1, which it hopes to launch next year.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

34 SpaceX
29 China
11 Russia
6 Rocket Lab
5 ULA

American private enterprise still leads China 49 to 29 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 49 to 47. A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch later today should strengthen this lead again.

The leade

ULA and China complete launches

Two launches were successfully completed in the past twelve hours.

First ULA’s Atlas-5 rocket successfully launched two Space Force military satellites and a NASA ultraviolet telescope into orbit on a launch that had been repeatedly delayed since February.

Next, one of China’s pseudo-private companies, Galactic Energy, completed its second launch of its Ceres-1 rocket, putting five smallsats into orbit. As the Ceres-1 rocket uses solid rocket motors, its initial development was for the military, and thus everything Galactic Energy does is carefully supervised by that Chinese military.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

46 China
27 SpaceX
20 Russia
6 Europe (Arianespace)
5 ULA

China now leads the U.S. 46 to 43 in the national rankings. The 118 total launches this year is now the most since 1985. And this number is only temporary, with two more launches scheduled in the next 24 hours.

Chinese pseudo-company launches first satellite

The new colonial movement: The pseudo-private Chinese company Galactic Energy today successfully completed its first orbital launch, placing a small satellite into orbit using its Ceres-1 rocket.

Galactic Energy is the fourth Chinese private launch company overall to make an orbital launch attempt, all with light-lift solid launchers. Landspace made the first attempt in October 2018, with OneSpace following in March 2019. In July last year iSpace became the first to successfully achieve orbit with its Hyperbola-1 launch.

The 19-meter-long, 1.4-meter-diameter Ceres-1 can loft 350 kilograms to low Earth orbit or 230 kilograms to a 700-kilometer SOO. It consists of three solid stages and an advanced liquid upper stage. [emphasis mine]

That all of these companies are using solid rockets explains why I call them “pseudo private.” They might be raising independent venture capital money to fund their operations, and they might be aimed at earning a profit, but solid rocket technology is always the primary technology used for military missiles, and none of these Chinese companies could do anything without the close and very firm permission and supervision of the Chinese communist government. In fact, their very existence is likely because that Chinese communist government wants them to exist.

Nonetheless, this launch raises China’s launch capabilities. The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

29 China
19 SpaceX
12 Russia
4 ULA
4 Europe (Arianespace)
4 Rocket Lab

The U.S. is still ahead of China, 30 to 29, in the national rankings.