Experimental Tiankun-1 lofted during secretive KT-2 launch

by Rui C. Barbosa

China orbited a small experimental satellite called Tiankun-1 (TK-1), utilizing the Kaituozhe-2 (KT-2) rocket, new launch vehicle. Launched at 23:45 UTC on Thursday from the Jiuquan Launch Center, the new launcher is the latest in a series of solid launcher fueled rockets developed by China that debuted during recent months.

Chinese Launch:

The small TK-1 Tiankun-experimental satellite is the first to be developed by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation.

The satellite was developed by the country’s “Second Bureau” and will be used to test the new small satellite bus performance in orbit. The development of the new satellite bus began in March 2014.

TK-1 will be used for remote sensing, telecommunications and experiments in minisatellite-based technologies.

The Xinhua news agency is identifying the new launch vehicle simply as ‘KT-2’. Other sources identify the new launcher as the Kaituo-2. Previously rumors expected that the new launch vehicle was the Kaituozhe-2A.

The Kaituozhe-2/Kaituo-2 launch vehicle is a three-stage solid propellant launch vehicle developed by the “CASIC Forth Bureau”. The new launcher is capable of orbiting a 350 kg cargo to LEO or a 250 kg cargo to a 700 km high SSO.

KT-2 has similar capabilities to the Kuaizhou-1A launch vehicle, that was used for the first time on January 9, 2017.

The KZ-1A is capable of orbiting a 300 kg satellite to LEO or a 200 kg payload to a 700km SSO. The other Chinese solid fuel launcher, the Long March 11 (Chang Zheng-11) rocket, is capable of orbiting a 750 kg to LEO or 350kg to a 700 km SSO.

With these series of solid launch vehicles, China is expecting to grab a share of the small satellite launch international market. The new rocket is one of the five carrier systems in the CASIC commercial space plan, featuring high carrying efficiency and adaptability, according to the Corporation.

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 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).

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.

(Images via Chinese Media).

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