China Launches Communications & Technology Demonstration Satellites

Kuaizhou-1A rocket lifts off on Nov. 25, 2021. (Credit: CASIC)

China placed communications and technology demonstration satellites into orbit in separate launches on Thursday and Friday. The successful missions marked the 46th and 47th launches by China in 2021, with 45 successes and two failures.

On Friday, a Long March 3B rocket launched the ChinaSat-1D communications satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The geosynchronous satellite will be used for military communications.

The spacecraft and the launch vehicle were build by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

On Thursday, a Kuaizhou-1A solid-fuel booster launched the Shiyan 11 satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The rocket’s builder, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., did not disclose the purpose of the technology demonstration spacecraft.

The Kuaizhou-1A small-satellite launcher has a record of 12 successes and one failure.

Thales Alenia Space and Telkom Indonesia to Built HTS 113BT Telecom Satellite to Provide More Capacity Over Indonesia

Editor’s Note: The satellite will replace Nusantara-2, aka Palapa-N1, which was destroyed during the failed launch of China’s Long March 3B rocket on April 9, 2020.

DJAKARTA, Dubai, October 28, 2021 (Thales Alenia Space PR) – Thales Alenia Space announced that it has signed a contract with the leading satellite service provider in Indonesia, PT Telkom Satelit Indonesia (Telkomsat) as subsidiary of PT Telkom Indonesia (Persero) Tbk (Telkom) a state-owned digital telecommunication company in Indonesia, to build HTS 113BT, a new High Throughput Satellite telecommunications satellite in C-band/Ku-Band from its orbital position at 113° East.

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Launch 2020: China’s Space Program Continued to Surge with a Number of Firsts

Long March 3B lifts off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. (Credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Group)

China’s surging space program showed no sign of slowing down last year as it tied its own launch record and moved ahead with ambitious space missions and a set of new launchers.

China compiled a record of 35 successes and four failures in 2020. That matched the number of launch attempts made in 2018, a year that saw 38 successes and a single failure.

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Launch 2020: A Busy Year Filled with Firsts in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.

First in a series

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.

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Quarterly Launch Report: US in the Lead Thanks to SpaceX

A Falcon 9 lifts off with 60 Starlink satellites on March 11, 2021. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

There were 27 orbital launch attempts with 26 successes and one failure during the first quarter of 2021. The United States accounted for nearly half the total with 13 launches behind nine flights by SpaceX.

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Long March 7A Launches Test Satellite No. 9

The Long March 7A rocket lifts off on March 12, 2021. (Credit: Wu Tong Xiaoyu)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China’s Long March 7A rocket made its first successful flight on Friday, placing a technology verification satellite into orbit nearly a year after the booster failed in its maiden launch.

The booster lifted off at 1:51 a.m. from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China. The payload was the Shiyan-9 satellite, which will demonstrate new technologies.

A variant of the Long March 7 rocket, the three-stage booster is equipped with a third stage powered by hydrogen and liquid oxygen that is adapted from the older Long March 3B.

Long March 7A, which features four strap-on motors, is capable of launching 7 metric tons to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). This is a significant improvement on the Long March 3B, which can lift 5.5 metric tons to LEO.

Long March 7A’s first two stages and strap-on motors are powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen. These are cleaner propellants than the toxic hypergolic ones used on the Long March 3 and Long March 2 boosters, which Long March 7A will replace.

The maiden flight of Long March 7A failed during a classified launch on March 16, 2020. Long March 7 has succeeded in both of its launches.

China has succeeded in five of its six launches in 2021. An i-Space Hyperbola-1 booster carrying several unidentified payloads failed after launch on Feb. 1.

Long March 3B Launches Communication Technology Test Satellite

Long March 3B rocket lifts off. (Credit: Zhang Yiyi)

BEIJING (CASC PR) — At 23:36 on February 4, the Long March 3B carrier rocket lifted the communication technology test satellite No. 6 into the sky frm the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Subsequently, the satellite was successfully sent into the predetermined orbit, and the launch mission was a complete success.

The communication technology test satellite No. 6 was developed by the Eighth Academy of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) Limited. It is mainly used for satellite communications, radio and television, data transmission and other services, and conducts related technical test verification.

The Long March 3B carrier rocket used for this launch belongs to the “Gold Medal Rocket” Long March 3A series and was developed by the First Academy of Aerospace Science and Technology Group.

This mission is the 360th launch of the Long March series of carrier rockets.

Long March 3B Launches Tiantong-1 03 Communications Satellite

Long March 3B rocket lifts off with Tiantong-1 03 satellite. (Credit: Zhang Yiyi)

BEIJING (CASC PR) — At 00:25 on January 20, the Long March 3B carrier rocket ignited and lifted off at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, and then sent the Tiantong-1 03 satellite into the scheduled orbit. The launch mission was a complete success.

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Upgraded Long March 3B Launches Gaofen 14 Satellite

Long March 3B booster launches Gaefen 14 Earth observation satellite on Dec. 6, 2020. (Credit: CALT)

BEIJING (CALT PR) — On Dec. 6 at 11:58 a.m., the Long March 3B successfully launched the Gaofen 14 remote sensing satellite into orbit from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

There are two major changes in the Long March 3B rocket that performed the mission: the fairing has been increased by 900 mm; and it will perform the low-orbit launch mission for the first time.

The Gaofen 14 satellite launched this time has a relatively taller size. In order to meet the needs of the mission, the fairing of the rocket was 900 mm [35.4 inches] higher than the previous 4.2-meter [13.78-foot] diameter fairing.

The height of the fairing has changed the shape of the rocket. The total length of the rocket is 58 meters [190.3 ft].

The first low-orbit launch mission

In the past, Long March 3B rockets were used to perform high-orbit launch missions, including geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO orbit) and medium earth orbit (MEO orbit). This launch is the first low-orbit launch mission of Long March 3B rocket, namely sun synchronization. Orbital mission (SSO orbit).

To this end, a lot of changes have been made to the software part of the rocket control system, and the flight software code has been rewritten by about 30%, including the addition of guidance control in the first-level flight segment, the use of “4 yuan” for attitude control throughout the entire process, and use of the third-level.

In addition to iterative guidance and control, the purpose is to adapt to changes in the launch orbit. This launch means that the Long March 3B rocket has both high and low orbit launch capabilities, which improves the orbital adaptability of the Long March 3B rocket.

This mission was the 354th launch of the Long March series rocket.

Long March 3B Rocket Successfully Launches Tiantong-1 02 Satellite

Long March 3B lifts off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. (Credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Group)

BEIJING (China Aerospace Science and Technology Group PR) — At 23:59 on November 12th, China successfully launched the Tiantong-1 02 satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center using the Long March 3B carrier rocket. The satellite entered the scheduled orbit and the launch mission was a complete success.

The launch of the Tiantong-1 02 satellite was developed by the Fifth Academy of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, and is an important part of the Tiantong-1 satellite mobile communication system.

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The Long March 3B carrier rocket successfully launched the Gaofen 13 Satellite

BEIJING (China Aerospace Science and Technology Group PR) — At 0:57 on October 12, at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, the Long March 3B carrier rocket lifted the Gaofen 13 satellite into the sky. The satellite then entered the scheduled orbit, and the launch mission was a complete success.

The Gaofen 13 satellite was developed by the Fifth Academy of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. It is a high-orbit optical remote sensing satellite. It is mainly used for land surveys, crop yield estimation, environmental governance, weather warning and forecasting, and comprehensive disaster prevention and mitigation. Provide information services for the construction of the national economy.

The Long March 3B carrier rocket for this launch mission was developed by the Fifth Academy of Aerospace Science and Technology Group. The rocket launch test team has done a lot of work in improving the reliability of the rocket, de-tasking products, and optimizing the pre-launch preparation process.

For this mission, the Long March 3B carrier rocket has carried out the most technological state change in recent years — 16 first-flight technologies have been updated, mainly involving satellite fairings, on-arrow pressurized transport systems, and three-stage rocket igniter, laser inertial group data, etc.

This launch is the 349th launch of the Long March series of carrier rockets.

Chinese Kuaizhou 1A Rocket Fails After Launch

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A Kuaizhou 1A rocket failed to orbit the Jilin-1 Gaofen 02C optical remote-sensing satellite after liftoff from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Saturday afternoon.

The official Xinhua news agency attributed the failure to the “abnormal performance” of the launch vehicle. An investigation has commenced.

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China Completes Beidou Satellite Navigation System

Note: As of June 28, 2019. Adapted from Kazuhiro Kida and Shinichi Hashimoto, “China’s Version of GPS Now Has More Satellites than US Original,” Nikkei Asian Review, August 19, 2019.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China completed its Beidou satellite navigation system with a launch last week, fully standing up a rival to the American Global Positioning System (GPS), Europe’s Galileo constellation, and Russia’s GLONASS system and strengthening the nation as a space power.

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Schedule for Upcoming Launches

Electron rocket lifts off on Jan. 31, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

The week ahead features launches by Rocket Lab and SpaceX, Vega’s first rideshare mission, two Chinese launches, and a Japanese sounding rocket flight.

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China Suffers Second Launch Failure of 2020

A Chinese Long March 3B booster failed after launch on Thursday, destroying an Indonesian communications satellite and providing a spectacular nighttime light show for residents of Guam as debris burned up in the atmosphere.

China’s Xinhua news agency said the Long March 3B’s third stage malfunctioned after launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

The booster was carrying the Palapa-N1 geosynchronous communications satellite. The spacecraft was owned by Palapa Satelit Nusantara Sejahtera, which is a joint venture of Pasifik Satelit Nusantara and Indosat Ooredoo.

Palapa-N1, also known as Nusantara Dua, would have provided C-band and Ku-band broadcast and broadband services for Indonesia and neighboring regions. The China Academy of Space Technology built the spacecraft based on its DFH-4 platform.

Debris from the launch reentered the atmosphere near Guam. Officials said the debris posed no threat to the U.S. territory.

It was China’s second launch failure in less than a month. On March 16, the maiden launch of the Long March 7A rocket went awry, destroying a classified government satellite. Chinese officials have not announced the cause of the failure.