Introducing China’s new commercial rocket, Ceres-1

by Rui C. Barbosa

China’s latest commercial rocket, the Ceres-1 (Gushenxing-1) launch vehicle, has conducted its maiden launch this weekend, orbiting the Tianqi-11 satellite.

Chinese company Galactic Energy conducted the launch on Saturday morning at 07:12 UTC from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

The Galactic Energy, also designated Beijing Xinghe Dongli Space Technology Co. Ltd., is one of several private Chinese companies that is developing orbital launch vehicles – of small or medium cargo capacity – for the Chinese domestic and international launch markets.

At present, Galactic Energy’s research and development team have more than 100 employees, and 90 percent of the staff have more than five years’ working experience in the spaceflight industry.

Galactic Energy also have a professional management and scientific research support team “to ensure the whole process of rocket research, development, supply chain, support chain to be in a smooth operating condition”.

At present, Galactic Energy is developing two launch vehicles: the Ceres-1 and the Pallas-1.

The Ceres-1 launch vehicle is named after the first asteroid discovered by humans. Ceres is the goddess of agriculture and harvest in Roman mythology.

Ceres-1 is the first solid-propellant launch vehicle of Galactic Energy, and it is the main carrier rocket for narrow-band “Internet of Things” network construction and constellation supplement launches.

The Pallas-1 liquid launch vehicle is named after the second asteroid discovered by humans. Pallas is also the name of the Roman goddess Athena. It is the rocket that will be used to deploy the future broadband internet constellation.

The Ceres-1 launch vehicle:

The Ceres-1 launch vehicle is a four-stage launch vehicle, with the first three stages using solid propulsion.
The rocket can orbit a 350 kg cargo to a Low-Earth Orbit at 200 km altitude or a 230 kg cargo to a Sun-synchronous orbit at 700 km altitude.
Ceres-1 has a maximum diameter of 1.4 meters, 19 meters long, and a 30,000 kg launch mass.

The GS-1 first stage has a burning time of 74 seconds, developing 588.4 kN. The GS-2 second stage has a burning time of 70 seconds, developing 274.6 kN. The GS-3 third stage has a burning time of 69 seconds, developing 78.5 kN.

The cargo section under the fairing has a 1.28-meter diameter and is 2.6 meters high. Its interface uses a military standard GJB4228 (GJB/Z200) type 300 and 600 wrap belt spring-type satellite and launch vehicle connection separation unit.

It can be adapted with the international general CubeSat release mechanism, with 1U as the basic unit for modular expansion and loaded with the common volume 1U, 2U, 3U, 6U, and 12U CubeSat.

The Tianqi-11 (Scorpio-1):

The Tianqi are low-orbit communications satellites operated by Guodian Gaoke for IoT communications, carrying a camera for educational purposes.
The satellites are part of the “Apocalypse Constellation” that provides users with much-needed data collection and transmission services for terrestrial network coverage blind areas, which are widely used in marine, environmental protection, meteorological, forestry, geological, emergency, rescue, and smart city industries to enhance China’s global data network coverage and application capabilities are of strategic importance.

Tianqi-11 is also named Scorpio-1.

The previous Tanqi satellite, Tianqi-10, was orbited on July 25, 2020.

The Launch Site:

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. All Chinese crewed missions are launched from this site.

The LC-43 launch complex, also known as the South Launch Site (SLS), is equipped with two launch pads: 91 and 94. Launch Pad 91 is used for the crewed program to launch the Long March-2F launch vehicle (Shenzhou and Tiangong).

Launch Pad 94 is used for uncrewed orbital launches by the Long March-2C, Long March-2D, and Long March-4C launch vehicles.

Other launch zones at the launch site are used for launching the Kuaizhou, the CZ-11 Chang Zheng-11, and commercial launch vehicles using solid rocket motors.

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