Private rocket company completes third orbital mission
by Staff Writers
Beijing (XNA) Aug 10, 2022
Galactic Energy, a carrier rocket maker in Beijing, carried out the third flight of its Ceres 1 rocket on Tuesday, becoming the first private Chinese company with a commercially ready launch vehicle.
The Ceres 1 Y3 rocket, the third of its kind, blasted off at 12:11 pm Tuesday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China's Gobi Desert and placed three small satellites into sun-synchronous orbits about 500 kilometers above the Earth, the private startup said in a statement.
The payloads were two Earthobservation satellites and a technology demonstration satellite.
The mission marked the first time a privately built Chinese rocket has successfully completed three orbital launches, far outperforming other private competitors.
There are a number of private rocket companies in China but only Galactic Energy and i-Space, another Beijing-based private startup, have completed orbital missions, which refer to rocket flights that successfully deploy a payload into orbit.
Before the Ceres 1, the SQX 1 rocket developed by i-Space launched two satellites and several experimental payloads into space from the Jiuquan center in July 2019. The model's maiden flight also marked the first orbital mission by a privately built rocket in China. However, the following three SQX 1 launches failed due to technical malfunctions.
Tuesday's launch was also the first successful launch by the country's private space sector this year.
The Ceres 1 is about 20 meters tall, has a diameter of 1.4 meters and mainly burns solid propellant. With a liftoff weight of 33 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.
The Ceres 1 is ideal for domestic and foreign clients seeking a small, cost-efficient launch vehicle to deploy mini-satellites, its designers said.
The rocket made its debut flight in November 2020 from the Jiuquan center, sending a small communication satellite into space.
In December 2021, it completed a second flight and placed five small satellites in orbit.
Xia Dongkun, a vice-president of Galactic Energy, said after the launch that the success of the third flight mission has put an end to the rocket's trial phase and that it is ready for commercial operations.
"We have started manufacturing components for nine new Ceres 1 rockets. We have also begun to assemble the fourth Ceres 1 that will be launched next time. We will perform two to three launch missions before year's end," he said.
According to Xia, his company now has orders worth 400 million yuan ($59 million) for commercial launch services by 10 Ceres 1s.
Its engineers are now developing the Pallas 1, a larger, liquid-propellant rocket model that can be reused, the executive said.
He added that production for the new rocket's engine has recently started and ground tests will begin next month.
"We aim to perform Pallas 1's maiden flight around the end of 2023," Xia said.
Northrop Grumman teams with Firefly to further develop Antares launcher
Chandler AZ (SPX) Aug 09, 2022
Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and Firefly Aerospace have joined forces to provide an American-built first-stage upgrade for the Antares rocket and a new medium launch vehicle to serve commercial, civil and national security space launch markets. "Through our collaboration, we will first develop a fully domestic version of our Antares rocket, the Antares 330, for Cygnus space station commercial resupply services, followed by an entirely new medium class launch vehicle," said Scott Lehr, ... read more
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