by Douglas Messier
Chinese microsat launch provider Galactic Energy conducted the maiden flight of its new Ceres-1 booster on Saturday, placing the Tianqi-11 satellite into orbit for the Apocalypse Internet of Things (IoT) constellation.
The four-stage booster lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Nov. 7 at 3:12 p.m. Beijing Standard Time.
Ceres-1, which is also known as Gushenxing-1 or GX-1, is a 19-meter long rocket consisting of three solid-fuel stages that use hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene and a liquid fuel upper stage.
The booster is capable of launching payloads weighing 350 kg (772 lb) into low Earth orbit and 230 kg (507 lb) into a 700 km (435 mile) high sun synchronous orbit.
Galactic Energy officials have said the company will charge customers a flat feel of US $4 million per launch. The company is working to reduce the price of orbiting satellite to below $10,000 per kilogram.
The 50 kg (110 lb) Tianqi-11 satellite is an experimental communications satellite developed by the Shanghai ASES Spaceflight Technology for Beijing Guodian Gaoke Technology Company’s Apocalypse IoT constellation.
Tianqi-11 will be used for data collection and transmission. The spacecraft also carries a camera for educational purposes.
The Tianqi-10 satellite was launched in July as a secondary payload aboard a Long march 4B rocket.
Galactic Energy became the second nominally private Chinese launch provider to orbit a satellite. iSpace succeeded in orbiting a satellite using its Hyperbola-1 launcher in July.
Two other commercial companies — Landspace and OneSpace — failed in launch attempts in October 2018 and March 2019, respectively.
All four companies have used solid-fuel booster believed to be based on Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technology. China’s policy of military-civil fusion allows for the rapid transfer of military technology to private companies that are backed by private investment.