A Long March 6C (CZ-6C) carrier rocket carrying the Jilin-1 satellite lifts off at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Taiyuan city, North China's Shanxi province, on Nov 21, 2017. (Photo/IC)
China will use its Long March 6 carrier rocket for several launches to place 90 satellites into orbit for an Argentine company, a landmark achievement for China in the international space market, according to the project contractor.
China Great Wall Industry Corp, the international arm of State-owned space conglomerate China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, announced on Wednesday that it recently signed a multiple launch services agreement with Satellogic, a private Argentine company specializing in Earth-observation satellites.
According to the contract, Great Wall will use multiple Long March 6 missions to deploy 90 of Satellogic's small, remote-sensing satellites from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi province. The Chinese firm is planning the first launch this year to deliver 13 Satellogic satellites to low-Earth orbit, it said in a statement.
After the company's satellites are in orbit, they will form an Earth observation satellite constellation capable of imaging the entire world with a 1-meter resolution on a weekly basis, the statement said. That is expected to dramatically reduce the cost of high-frequency geospatial analytics, it said.
Gao Ruofei, executive vice-president of Great Wall, was quoted in the statement as saying that Satellogic's constellation "will introduce a new era of affordable Earth observation, just as the Long March 6 will open new opportunities for the global space industry".
Before the new deal, Great Wall lofted six Satellogic satellites using Long March rockets.
Though financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, Fu Zhiheng, vice-president of Great Wall, told China Daily on Wednesday that the deal is at the level of hundreds of millions of US dollars. That makes it one of the largest contracts China has obtained in the international space market in the past several years.
It is also the first time that China will launch such a large number of satellites for a foreign client, Fu said, adding Great Wall will continue to promote the Long March 6 in the international market.
Zhang Weidong, the Long March 6's chief designer at the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, said on Wednesday that the Chinese rocket has a shorter preparation time, higher efficiency, better reliability and stronger satellite compatibility than its foreign competitors.
The 29.3-meter rocket is capable of placing about 1 metric ton of payload into a sun-synchronous orbit 700 kilometers above the ground.
The three-stage rocket has been used on two missions: the first in September 2015 and the second in November 2017, according to the academy.