China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, a major space contractor, said on Aug 30 that it will launch four Kuaizhou 1A rockets within one week in early 2018.
Each of the rockets will lift a remote-sensing satellite into orbit for a client, said Zha Xiongquan, a senior rocket designer at CASIC and vice-president of Expace Technology, a subsidiary of CASIC that provides commercial launch services.
He did not disclose the name of the client or the timetable for the missions, saying only that they will “definitely set a world record for launch frequency for a single model of carrier rocket”.
No other rockets in the world have been used four times within one week, he said.
Zha made the remarks at the Third China International Commercial Aerospace Forum, which was sponsored by CASIC in Wuhan, Hubei province. Nearly 400 government officials, company representatives and industry experts from more than 20 nations, including the United States, Russia and Iran, attended the event and discussed technological developments and business opportunities in the space industry.
The Kuaizhou 1A, a solid-fuel carrier rocket developed by the CASIC Fourth Academy in Wuhan, has a liftoff weight of 30 metric tons and is capable of sending a 200-kilogram payload into a sun-synchronous orbit, or a 300-kg payload into a low-Earth orbit. Unlike most Chinese carrier rockets, it uses a transporter-erector-launch vehicle for liftoff rather than a fixed launchpad.
The first flight of the Kuaizhou 1A, carrying three small satellites, was in January. It was launched at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China.
The CASIC Fourth Academy began to develop Kuaizhou-series solid-fuel rockets in 2009 in hopes of presenting a low-cost, quick-response rocket family to the commercial launch market. It has launched three of the rockets.
Zha said a new-generation－the Kuaizhou 11－is under development and will make its first flight next year to send six satellites into orbit. He added that the rocket is undergoing testing.
According to the academy, the Kuaizhou 11 will have a liftoff weight of 78 tons and will be capable of placing a 1-ton payload into a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 700 km, or a 1.5-ton payload into a low-Earth orbit at an altitude of 400 km.
The academy is also building the Wuhan National Space Industry Base, which will have an area of 68.8 square kilometers, in Wuhan’s Xinzhou district. CASIC will invest 1.7 billion yuan ($258 million) in the base to build production and assembly plants for Kuaizhou rockets. It said it plans to make about 20 rockets at the base each year.
The CASIC Second Academy will also invest 300 million yuan to construct a research, development and manufacturing complex at the Wuhan base for making small satellites.
The aerospace company has said it will launch 156 small communications satellites into low-Earth orbit, at an altitude of 160 to 2,000 km, from 2018 to 2025. They would form a network capable of global coverage.