Chinese Rocket Flies with Falcon 9-style Grid Fins

A Long March 2C rocket launched three Yaogan Weixing-30 Group-5 remote sensing satellites into orbit from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on Friday. The satellites are believed to be for military reconnaissance.

The booster included grid fins that are similar to the ones that SpaceX uses to guide the first stage of its Falcon 9 booster to landings on land and at sea. The Chinese appear to be experimenting with controlled descent and moving toward reusable first stages.

That would be good news for people living down range from China’s interior launch sites. Boosters fall uncontrollably from the sky and land near villages and towns.