Two Jilin-1 satellites are launched on a Long March 11 rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Jan 21. (Photo: chinadaily.com.cn)
China's first seaborne rocket launch is scheduled for mid 2019 with a Long March-11 carrier rocket set to blast off in the Yellow Sea, said Jin Xin, deputy chief commander of the rocket.
China has achieved a breakthrough in the key technologies for seaborne launches, Jin, of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, told a press conference by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation on Tuesday.
The Long March-11, with a length of 20.8 meters and a takeoff weight of about 57.6 tonnes, is the only rocket using solid propellants among China's new generation carrier rockets. It has a relatively simple structure and can be launched in a short time.
After leaving port, the rocket could be launched within a week, said Jin.
The rocket can carry a payload of up to 350 kg to a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 700 km and 700 kg to a low-Earth orbit at 200 km. It is mainly used to carry small satellites, and can take multiple satellites into orbit at the same time.
A seaborne launch has many advantages over a land launch, Jin said. For instance, the launch site is flexible, and falling rocket remains pose less danger.
Using civilian ships to launch rockets at sea would lower launch costs and give it a commercial edge, said Jin.
It will also help lay the groundwork for developing reusable rockets and recovery technologies at sea.
The seaborne launch technology will help China provide launch services for countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, he added.
Another three Long March-11 launches on land are also planned this year.
The Long March-11, which made its maiden flight on Sept. 25, 2015, has so far sent 25 satellites into orbit in six launches with high reliability and good performance rates.