The Chinese have launched their second mission in the space of 24 hours, with the orbiting of the Kuaizhou-2 natural disaster monitoring satellite. Launch took place at 06:37 UTC – utilizing the second launch of the KZ Kuaizhou all-solid rocket – from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
Unlike a lot of Chinese launches of late – most of which utilize the Long March family of rockets – this second flight of Kuaizhou had been expected for a few months, and was even announced well in advance.
This was the second launch in 24 hours for the Chinese, following the Long March 2D launch of the Yaogan Weixing-24 “remote sensing” satellite, which itself came just six days after China orbited the Yaogan-23 spacecraft.
The Kuaizhou rocket is designed for quick-reaction launches for China.
Developed by CASIC with the collaboration from the Harbin Institute of Technology on the basis of the DF-21 IRBM, the designation of this launcher is ‘Kuaizhou’ due to it meaning ‘Quick-vessel’ in English.
Development started in 2009 as part of Program 863 for the development of high-profile defence programs including human space flight, ASAT weapons and missile defence.
KZ was to provide an integrated launch vehicle system with the rapid ability to replace Chinese satellites that might be damaged or destroyed in an act of aggression in orbit.
The vehicle uses a mobile launch platform and is operated by the Chinese 2nd Artillery. This is the branch of the People’s Liberation Army that operates China’s land-based missile forces, including its land-based nuclear missiles.
Interestingly, the launcher can be pre-positioned at various locations around the country, and isn’t dependant on fixed structures for launching the rapid response satellites.
Kuaizhou is a three stage solid propellant with a liquid upper stage attached to the cargo. The launch vehicle is about 18 m in length and 1.7 m in diameter.
Liftoff mass is between 30 to 32 ton with a payload capacity of around 430 kg to a 500 km SSO.
A commercialized version of this launcher – named FT-1 Feitian-1 – was recently presented at the Zhuhai 2014 Airshow, with CASIC also promoting “quick launch” Earth observation satellites.
The development of the Kuaizhou and the Feitian-1 is not related with the development of the solid fuel CZ-11 Chang Zheng-11 launch vehicle that is set to make its debut launch in 2015.
The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, in Ejin-Banner – a county in Alashan League of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region – was the first Chinese satellite launch center and is also known as the Shuang Cheng Tze launch center.
The site includes a Technical Centre, two Launch Complexes, Mission Command and Control Centre, Launch Control Centre, propellant fuelling systems, tracking and communication systems, gas supply systems, weather forecast systems, and logistic support systems.
Jiuquan was originally used to launch scientific and recoverable satellites into medium or low earth orbits at high inclinations. It is also the place from where all the Chinese manned missions are launched.
The LC-43 launch complex, also known by South Launch Site (SLS) is equipped with two launch pads: 921 and 603.
Launch pad 921 is used for the manned program for the launch of the Chang Zheng-2F launch vehicle (Shenzhou and Tiangong). The 603 launch pad is used for unmanned orbital launches by the Chang Zheng-2C, Chang Zheng-2D and Chang Zheng-4C launch vehicles.
Other launch zone at the launch site is used for launching the Kuaizhou solid propellant launch vehicle. Kuaizhou launch site is 3.7 km East from the LC43 Launch Complex
The first orbital launch took place on April 24, 1970 when the CZ-1 Chang Zheng-1 rocket launched the first Chinese satellite, the Dongfanghong-1 (04382 1970-034A).