Expace launched two satellites to space, an addition to the influx of commercial Chinese space companies to do so.
The Kuaizhou-1A spacecraft launched from a mobile platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 7:41 p.m. Eastern on Friday, successfully carrying two satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit roughly 600-kilometer altitude orbits inclined by 97.8 degrees.
The main payload of the 20-meter long spacecraft, which had a lift-off mass of 30 tons, and its maximum diameter is 1.4 meters, were the KX-09 and the Xiaoxiang 1-07 satellites.
KX-09 is a microgravity experiment for the Chinese Academy of Sciences as part of a pilot phase of a space science strategy. The experiment will pave the way for future fundamental science research, according to CAS.
DFH Satellite Co., Ltd., the company behind KX-09, is mainly engaged in system R&D, design, integration and in-orbit service of small satellites. It is subordinated to China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), which designs and manufacturers spacecraft.
Currently, about one-third of the in-orbit Chinese satellites were produced by DFH. In the past 5 years alone, the small satellite developer has sent 37 satellites into low-Earth orbit, making the total number of satellites managed by DFH to 52.
Mainly, these small satellites are used in the fields of ocean observation environment and disaster monitoring, remote sensing for earth observation, stereo surveying and mapping, scientific and technological experiment.
Meanwhile, the second payload was SpaceTY’s Xiaoxiang 1-07 (XX 1-07), a 6U cubesat which will test spaceborne air traffic control technology during its three-year lifespan, according to the company.
Xiaoxiang-1 (07) is designated as the eighth mission for SpaceTY. As one of the first commercial aerospace companies in China, SpaceTY specializes in developing commercial micro/nanosatellites.
SpaceTY’s establishment is mainly a result of a late 2014 government policy, which opened opportunities to the commercial sector to develop small satellites and lunches.
The company aims to provide short-cycle, low-cost and one-stop services to scientists, research institutes, and commercial companies, for science experiments and technology demonstrations.
The vehicle that both the KX-09 and Xiaoxiang-1 small satellite rode to reach SSO, the Kuaizhou-1A, is considered as a high reliability, high precision and low-cost solid launch vehicle developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASIC) and commercialized by the China Space Sanjiang Group Corporation, Expace.
The launch vehicle can send a 200 kg payload into a 700 km sun-synchronous orbit. It mainly offers the service of sending a small satellite into low-Earth Orbit to domestic and international customers.
Furthermore, Expace is also a giant defense contractor and missile maker in China and Friday was the third launch of the Kuaizhou-1A.
Overall, Expace contributes to the rapidly developing small-satellite deployment of China as the country works to develop innovative and low-cost access to space through opening the sector to private capital and a civilian-military fusion national strategy.
The launch of Kuaizhou-1A marks the 16th launch from a Chinese-owned commercial space deployment service in 2019.
Last month, Chinese commercial space company, China Rocket Ltd., also launched its first small satellite deployment spacecraft called Smart Dragon-1 or Jielong-1 and successfully delivered three satellites into low-Earth orbit.
Reportedly, China Rocket only took less than 18 months to develop Smart Dragon-1, which is the shortest period to develop a new type of carrier rocket in the country.
Additionally, China Rocket is a commercial spinoff from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) China’s state-owned main space contractor.
On the other hand, Expace’s achievement of a successful deployment only marks the 5th successful launch from Chinese commercial space companies.
The first successful orbital launchwas by a Chinese private company, iSpace, which happened in July. This was followed by OneSpace in March and Landspace in October last year. Linkspace, another private company launch company, performed a 300-meter hop test with a technology verification rocket in Aug. 12. The fifth was from The aforementioned China Rocket, also in August.