China’s Kuaizhou-11 rocket launches test satellite

China today successfully launched what it labeled as a communications test satellite using its smallsat mobile Kuaizhou-11 rocket.

China’s state run press gave little details, other than saying, “The satellite will be mainly used for communications test and key technologies verification of the VDES and the automatic identification system (AIS),” whatever that means.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

55 China
54 SpaceX
21 Russia
9 Rocket Lab

The U.S. still leads China 78 to 55 in the national rankings, though it trails the entire world combined 86 to 78.

Evidence of explosion in ’21 detected from orbital images of Chinese launchpad

Explosion at Chinese spaceporty
Click for full image.

Using orbital images, an amateur space observer has detected evidence that an explosion had occurred at the Chinese Jiuquan spaceport some time in October 2021.

Evidence of the explosion was discovered by space enthusiast Harry Stranger using imagery from Airbus and CNES and posted on Twitter June 10.

The incident occurred at facilities constructed around 16 kilometers to the southwest of Jiuquan’s two main launch complexes. The pair of launch pads are used by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) for hypergolic Long March rocket launches for human spaceflight, civil, military and scientific missions and were unaffected by the blast.

…Further satellite imagery from Planet’s Super Dove satellites seen by SpaceNews indicates that the explosion occurred between 0316 UTC on Oct. 15 and 0407 UTC Oct. 16 (11:16 p.m, Oct. 14 and 12:07 a.m. October 16 Eastern).

At almost exactly the same time China had launched a manned mission from this same spaceport, so the explosion apparently was not related to that launch. Instead, the images suggest that this was related to testing of solid rockets, and could be related as well to the delay in any further launches of the Kuaizhou-11 rocket. According to a press release several months earlier, that rocket was being prepared for a launch by the end of 2021, but no such launch ever occurred.

Launch failure for China’s new Kuaizhou-11 rocket

For reasons not yet specified, China’s new Kuaizhou-11 rocket today failed on its inaugural launch.

Many reports will say that this is a commercial rocket developed by the private company Exspace. That is not true. Like all Chinese aerospace companies, they do their work wholly under the supervision of the Chinese government.

The development of the KZ-11 began in 2015, with a maiden launch originally scheduled for 2018. The rocket is developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASIC) and commercialized by the China Space Sanjiang Group Corporation (Expace).

The launch vehicle can loft a 1,500 kg payload into a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) or 1,00 kg to a 700 km sun-synchronous orbit.

The KZ-11 solid launch vehicle adopts a mobile launch platform, integrated power supply equipment, test and launch control facilities, aiming facility and temperature control facility, to carry vehicles from the technical support center to launch site, complete temperature control of payload, vehicle test and launch.

CASIC is in many ways China’s equivalent of NASA. And everything described in the last paragraph above, from solid rockets to mobile launches, are technologies developed expressly for military purposes. China will not let such things out for commercial companies to use however they wish, no matter what they claim.