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First Chinese docking satellite enters orbit

A light-lift solid-state rocket launched an experimental stackable “dish” satellite into orbit Thursday evening as the country tried to build its Starlink response. The Kuaizhou-1A solid-state rocket ascended into the blue sky from the TEL above the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert at 10:35 pm on June 8. China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) soon confirmed the successful launch.

On board the aircraft was the Longjiang-3 experimental integrated communications satellite, which was jointly developed by Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT), a commercial satellite company and its parent company in northeastern China.

Harbin Institute of Technology Satellite Technology Co., Ltd. or HITSat said in a statement that Longjiang-3 will test communications technologies, including signal refresh and network slicing, and provide technical support for satellite Internet construction in China.

HITSat was founded in December 2020 and is developing a series of small satellite platforms. The SATware-CS200 Ka-band satellite platform, on which Longjiang-3 is based, can transmit at 600 Mbps and 500 Mbps. The platform has a mass of 120 kilograms with a payload of 40 kilograms. It has a five-year design life and uses electric traction.

HITSat’s presentation shows that Longjiang-3 is a flat panel with a single folding solar cell. According to HITSat, the platform is designed for mass production, automated assembly and multi-layer launches. The configuration makes it similar to SpaceX Starlink satellites. HITSat is also developing other platforms specializing in the deployment of remote sensing and synthetic aperture radars.

China is now developing plans to build its own mega-satellite constellation in low Earth orbit that will respond to Starlink itself. It will provide satellite Internet infrastructure for China and potentially compete with Starlink and other systems, positioning China as a global infrastructure provider.

Known as “Guowang” or the national network, the constellation is expected to eventually consist of 13,000 satellites, according to documents submitted to ITU. It is unknown whether HITSat will be involved in the project.

CASC’s subsidiary CAST and Microsat of the Chinese Academy of Sciences are believed to have contracted to manufacture satellites for Guowang. Meanwhile, private firm GalaxySpace is expected to launch its first flat satellites with flexible solar cells in the second half of 2023. In recent years, the country has significantly expanded its capabilities in the production of small satellite satellites.

At the same time, China is looking for ways to increase its launch capabilities to put the Guowang satellites into orbit. Measures taken include adapting the Long March 5B to use a boost stage to launch multiple satellites, increasing production of the one-off Long March 8, and possibly taking advantage of the emerging commercial launch sector.

The Kuaizhou-1A used to launch Longjiang-3 consists of three solid-state stages and a liquid-fuel upper stage. It is capable of launching a 200-kilogram payload into a 700-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit (SSO).

Thursday’s launch was the 20th launch of Kuaizhou-1A. The mission experienced a delay of nearly 11 weeks after a launch attempt was canceled in late March.

State-run defense giant CASIC and Expace, which operates Kuaizhou solid-state rockets for commercial space projects, plans to launch the Kuaizhou-1A and larger Kuaizhou-11 rockets a total of seven times. Both cars made a successful comeback after setbacks last year.

Commercial space companies Galactic Energy and iSpace also launched solid-state rockets in the same class this year, but more are planned. In total, China’s commercial players could make more than 20 launches this year. Previously, HIT developed the Longjiang-1 and 2 small satellites, helping to launch the Queqiao lunar relay satellite to support the Chang’e-4 moon landing mission. The moon’s name, Longjiang, derives from the Heilongjiang (“Black Dragon River”), also known as the Amur River, which flows through the Chinese province of the same name with Harbin as its capital.

Source: Port Altele



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