February 29, 2024

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China to Launch Carrier Rocket in 2022

Image Credit by : opengovasia

CAS Space, a Beijing-based rocket company owned by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has begun to design what it expects will be the world’s most powerful solid-propellant carrier rocket.  The rocket, called ZK 2 is in the research and development stage at laboratories in Beijing and will be ready for its debut flight before the end of 2022.

The ZK 2 will have a core stage and two side boosters, each of which will have a diameter of 2.65 meters and use solid propellants. The rocket will be 39.7 meters tall and have a liftoff weight of 343 metric tons. It will be able to transport satellites with a combined weight of 3.55 tons to a sun-synchronous orbit 700 kilometres above Earth.

These specs would make the ZK 2 the world’s largest and mightiest solid-fuel rocket and even more powerful than several liquid-propellant models in China’s Long March rocket fleet, such as the Long March 2C and 4B.

The world’s most powerful operational solid-fuel rocket is Arianespace’s Vega, jointly developed by the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. With a liftoff weight of 137 tons, the European rocket can put payloads weighing 1.4 tons into a sun-synchronous orbit.

The ZK 2’s major clients will be satellite companies that want to build and operate a low-orbit satellite network. The rocket is suitable for deploying such networks, as it can launch a large number of small satellites in a single flight.

The rocket will have better flexibility than large, liquid-propellant rockets because it is designed for both land and sea-based launches. Liquid-fuel rockets are unsuitable for sea-based missions. Moreover, when launched from a land-based facility, solid-propellant rockets are less dependent on ground devices and thus are easier to launch.

CAS Space is currently preparing for the first flight of its first product, the ZK 1A solid-propellant rocket, which is scheduled to launch six small satellites in the second half of the year. The 31-meter craft will be able to put satellites weighing 1.33 tons into a sun-synchronous orbit.

If the launch succeeds, ZK 1A will replace the Long March 11 as China’s most powerful solid-fuel rocket. The company is working with the government in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, to build a 40-hectare production complex in the city’s Nansha district. As China’s southernmost carrier rocket production facility, the complex is to have an initial annual production capacity of 30 rockets upon completion of the first phase next year

Compared with other rocket makers, CAS Space has optimised more efficient and economical design, procurement and manufacturing procedures. The company uses the latest technologies and highly integrated equipment on its rockets, which guarantees a reduction in costs and fewer problems in design, production and launch operations.

Recently, China has paid great attention to space technology applications, such as satellite applications. As reported by OpenGov Asia, A Chinese meteorological satellite, Fengyun-3E (FY-3E), will be the world’s first meteorological satellite in a dawn-dusk orbit. The satellite was designed and built by China’s aerospace company. The satellite has passed a factory review in Shanghai getting it one step closer to launching into space.

A dawn-dusk orbit is a sun-synchronous orbit where the satellite tracks but never moves into the Earth’s shadow. Since the satellite is close to the shadow, the part of Earth directly above it is always at sunset or sunrise, hence the name “dawn-dusk orbit.” As the sun’s light is always shining on the satellite, it can make constant use of its solar panels. Once in orbit, the FY-3E will enhance China’s capabilities in meteorological forecasts, climate change responses, and disaster prevention and reduction. The FY-3E will also be capable of environmental and ecological monitoring, space weather forecasts, and early warnings.

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