China launches another spacecraft three weeks after its last

China has successfully conducted another commercial space launch, a little over three weeks since the last, along with five new satellites deployed into orbit.

The rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China’s Gobi Desert at 2:42 p.m. local time (2:42 a.m. EDT; 06:42 GMT).

The rocket was a Chinese Long March 11, which successfully launched five new remote-sensing satellites September 19, namely from the Zhuhai-1 Group-3 satellites, into orbit. 

A Long March rocket is any rocket in a family of expendable launch systems operated by the People’s Republic of China. Development and design fall under the auspices of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.

Meanwhile, the satellites carried by the Long March 11 was built and operated by the China-based Zhuhai Orbita Aerospace Science and Technology Co., Ltd.

Zhuhai-1, as the commercial company calls the set of satellites, will join a constellation that will ultimately consist of 34 small satellites, including video, hyperspectral, and high-resolution optical satellites, as well as radar and infrared satellites, according to China’s state-run Xinhuanet news agency.

A Chinese Long March 11 rocket lifts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China’s Gobi Desert on Sept. 19, 2019, carrying five Zhuhai-1 Group-3 remote-sensing satellites into orbit.
Source: CCTV

Before September’s launch, Zhuhai Orbita Aerospace already had seven Zhuhai-1 satellites in orbit. The first two were video satellites, called the OVS-1A and OVS-1B, and they launched together in June 2017. Five additional satellites launched in April 2018, which included four hyperspectral Earth-observation satellites called the OHS-01, 02, 03, and 04, and another called the OVS-2 video satellite. Today’s launch added four more hyperspectral satellites and one more video satellite to the constellation.

According to Xinhuanet, the hyperspectral satellites “have the highest spatial resolution and the largest coverage width of their type in China,” and the data and imagery from the satellite constellation will be used to study vegetation, water, and crops, and “will provide services for building smart cities.”

Notably, the international space community is gaining interest in China’s space efforts as it is rapidly moving towards development, deployment, and launches.

Zhuhai Orbita Aerospace was the second commercial launch from China in less than three weeks. On August 31, a Kuaizhou-1A rocket launched a pair of commercial satellites from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. That was the third launch of this new commercial rocket, which was developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation.  

The Kuaizhou-1A spacecraft launched from a mobile platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 7:41 p.m. Eastern and successfully carried two satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit.

The primary payload of the spacecraft was 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, while Xiaoxiang-07 is SpaceTY’s CubeSat that will test space-borne air traffic control technology during its three-year lifespan, according to the company.

From a broader perspective, Kuaizhou-1A marks the 16th launch from a Chinese-owned commercial space deployment service in 2019 alone. However, that achievement of a successful deployment only marks the 5th successful launch from Chinese commercial space companies. With this recent launch, that number rises to 7.

The first successful orbital launch was by a Chinese private company, iSpace, which happened in July. OneSpace followed this in March and Landspace in October last year. Linkspace, another private launch company, performed a 300-meter hop test with a technology verification rocket on August 12. The fifth was from China Rocket, also in August. 

In addition to the successful space launches, China has also attracted the attention of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, which has officially announced a joint venture towards the moon.

The two space agencies told that the team-up would be responsible for developing necessary technologies that would utilize Roscosmos’ Luna orbiter spacecraft and China National Space Agency’s Chang’e lunar orbiter.

Specifically, Roscosmos detailed that the cooperation will combine the two space assets in China’s Chang’e-7 polar landing mission with the Luna-26 orbiter spacecraft. Both missions are currently scheduled for the early-to-mid 2020s.

The two sides also committed to previously announced plans to create a joint lunar and deep space data center, which will consist of hubs in both Russia and China.

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