Another Chinese pseudo-company vertically lands a prototype 1st stage

According to China’s state-run press, the Chinese pseudo-company Expace yesterday successfully completed a short hop, with a methane-fueled prototype first stage of its next generation Kuaizhou rocket taking off and landing vertically.

The flight time lasted 22 seconds, and the rocket hovered in the air for nine seconds, with a height accuracy of 0.15 meter. The landing posture of the test rocket was stable, the landing position accurate and the rocket body in good condition, signifying the success of the experiment, according to the company.

Several things. First, this “company” is directly affliated with one of China’s government space agency. Its presently operating Kuaizhou rocket uses solid-fueled stages, adapted directly from missile technology that could only be obtained with full permission of that government. Second, there appears to be a plethora of these Chinese rocket “startups” now flying and testing methane-fueled engines. Want to bet the Chinese government told them all to share design information?

Third, there is also a plethora of Chinese pseudo-companies testing vertical take-off and landing for their first stages. Want to bet the Chinese government also told them to share design information?

Without question China’s space industry is moving fast, and will definitely be a competitive threat in the coming years — assuming outside events, such as war or economic collapse, don’t overwhelm things. However, it is a big mistake to see its industry as made up of independent, privately owned, and competing companies. They raise investment capital, compete for contracts from the government and other Chinese commercial entities, but in the end, everything they do is coordinated from above, by the Chinese communists.

China’s Kuaizhou rocket launches first commercial payload

The competition heats up: China’s Kuaizhou solid rocket, upgraded from a military mobile-launched ballistic missile, today placed its first three commercial satellites in orbit.

The rocket is designed to quickly launch smallsats into orbit for a reasonably low cost, and is built and marketed by China’s second commercial launch company, Expace.

In the China Daily report, he added that Expace is in talks with satellite manufacturers in Asia, Europe and Latin America, and has bid for contracts to launch their spacecraft. Guo Yong, president of the CASIC Fourth Academy, told China Daily that the organization intends to capture 20 percent of the global small satellite launch market by 2020. The Kuaizhou 1A rocket can deliver satellites of up to 300 kilograms — about 660 pounds — into low-altitude orbits, according to China Daily.

Expace is China’s second commercial launch services provider after China Great Wall Industry Corp., which sells Long March rocket missions, with an emphasis on launches of large communications satellites heading for geostationary orbit.

China preparing for anti-satellite test?

According to Pentagon officials China is preparing for a flight test of a new anti-satellite rocket.

Test preparations for the Dong Neng-3 anti-satellite missile were detected at a military facility in central China, according to Pentagon officials familiar with reports of the impending test. Intelligence agencies were alerted to the impending test by China’s announcement of air closure zones covering the expected flight path of the DN-3.

The flight test could come as early as Thursday, the officials said. No other details of the missile test were available. A Pentagon spokesman and a State Department official both said, “We do not comment on intelligence matters.”

One additional detail: The DN-3 rocket appears to be based on the Chinese commercial rocket Kuiazhou, which a Chinese launch company is pitching to the international market as a vehicle for putting smallsats into orbit.

New Chinese launch company gets its first customer

The competition heats up: A new Chinese launch company aimed at putting smallsats in orbit for a low price has signed its first customer.

In a statement published by China Daily, Zhang Di, vice president of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC) Fourth Academy, said Expace Technology Co. would charge around $10,000 per kilogram of satellite payload, which he said was less than half the prevailing commercial price. Zhang is also chairman of Expace.

CASIC created Expace in early 2016 as China’s second commercial-launch provider after China Great Wall Industry Corp. of Beijing, which has long been China’s showcase export vehicle for launches and commercial satellite contracts. China Great Wall is part of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CAST). Zhang said Expace has already signed its first commercial contract, valued at 100 million Chinese yuan, or around $14.5 million, to place three Earth observation satellites into low Earth orbit aboard a Kuaizhou 1 rocket for the government-owned Changguang Satellite Technology Co.

This same company has more than 10 other satellites slated for future launches on Kuaizhou rockets.

The situation here is interesting. This small company is essentially competing against China’s big space company that builds that country’s Long March rockets. It is also aiming to capture some of the market share of the new smallsat industry, specifically targeting international satellite companies that are becoming less and less dependent on the U.S. rocket components that would forbid their use on a Chinese rocket.

China plans first commercial rocket company

The competition heats up: A Chinese company has announced plans to start a new commercial rocket company to compete for the burgeoning space launch market.

China Sanjiang Space Group Co. is preparing to enter the commercial-rocket business with a launch slated for 2017, Xinhua reported Tuesday, citing the company’s chief engineer Hu Shengyun. Some Internet companies have expressed interest in collaborating on commercial launches, Hu said.

The Kuaizhou-11, translated as “fast vessel,” rocket is being developed by the Fourth Academy of China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp., a major missile supplier to the People’s Liberation Army, according to China Daily.

There is not much information at the link. The rocket was first launched in 2013, but not much has been revealed about it since.

China today successfully launched a new quick response rocket.

The competition heats up: China today successfully launched a brand new quick response rocket.

Very little is known about the Kuaizhou rocket, other than it was developed by CASIC. No photos or graphics exist in the public domain. It is also known the rocket – likely on its test flight – was carrying a satellite, called Kuaizhou-1. Built by the Harbin Institute of Technology, the new satellite will be used for emergency data monitoring and imaging, under the control of the national remote sensing center at the national Academy of Sciences. The new satellite is probably part of a “quick response satellite system” model that was already announced as in the works by the Chinese.

The rocket appears to be fueled entirely by solid rocket motors. Thus, they could build a bunch and have them in storage, ready to go at any time.