With the successful maiden flight of its heavy-lift Long March 5 booster on Thursday, China has debuted four new launch vehicles in just under 14 months.
The list includes two new boosters — Long March 6 and Long March 11 — that are designed to serve the growing small-satellite launch market. The Long March 7 launcher is a medium-lift booster designed to replace several existing boosters.
Recently, there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle over the use of surplus intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) to launch satellites. Orbital ATK would like to lift the ban on using them to launch commercial satellites, the U.S. Air Force would like to find a way to sell the engines, and an emerging commercial launch industry that doesn’t want what it considers government-subsidized competition.
Now, you’ve probably been wondering a few things. What does Orbital ATK do with these engines? What does it launch on them? And what launch vehicles are in operation or in development to compete with these boosters?
Those are all great questions. And now the answers.
The size of the global space industry, which combines satellite services and ground equipment, government space budgets, and global navigation satellite services (GNSS) equipment, is estimated to be about $324 billion. At $95 billion in revenues, or about 29 percent, satellite television represents the largest segment of activity. Following this is government space budgets at $76 billion, or 24 percent, and services enabled by GNSS represent, about $76 billion in revenues. Commercial satellite remote sensing companies generated on $1.6 billion in revenues, but the value added services enabled by these companies is believed to be magnitudes larger. Because remote sensing value added services includes imagery and data analytics from other sources beyond space-based platforms, only the satellite remote sensing component is included in the global space industry total.
Russia continued its dominance of the global satellite launch industry in 2015, conducting 29 of 86 orbital launches over the past 12 months. It also maintained its lead in botched launches, suffering two failures and one partial failure.
China successfully debuted its second new launch vehicle in a week on Friday as a Long March 11 rocket placed four micro-satellites into sun-synchronous orbit. The new rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
Long March 11 is a solid-fuel launch vehicle designed for rapid launch of micro-sats. It was developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology with the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation.
Last Sunday, China successfully launched its new Long March 6 rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. The booster placed 20 small satellites into orbit.
Long March 6 is a three-stage small satellite launcher capable of placing up to 1,080 kg (2,381 lb) into a sun-synchronous orbit of 700 km (435 miles). It is 29.2 meters (96 feet) tall.