Late on November 24, the exploratory Shiyan-11 satellite was launched from northwest China by a Chinese Kuaizhou-1A rocket for China’s principal space contractor. At 6:41 p.m. Eastern on 24 November, the 19.4-meter-long Kuaizhou-1A pushed off from transporter erector launcher, ascending into the pre-dawn sky over Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center facility in Gobi Desert.
The confidential Shiyan-11 satellite, part of a series of purportedly experimental satellites, was on board. The US 18th Space Control Squadron afterward tracked it in a 489 x 502-kilometer altitude Sun-synchronous orbit. According to a post available in social media, from CAST’s parent business, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, Shiyan-11 was created by China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the country’s principal state-owned spacecraft manufacturer (CASC). There isn’t any more information.
The Kuaizhou-1A is managed by Expace, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), another massive state-possessed defense contractor with some involvement in state-space endeavors and its own vast commercial goals, including the Tengyun spaceplane.
The Jilin-1 satellites for the commercial remote sensing company Changguang Satellite Technology, which was split off from Chinese Academy of Sciences, are normally launched by Kuaizhou rockets. The launch, however, was a unique instance of the KZ-1A delivering a government cargo.
Three solid stages as well as a liquid propellant upper stage make up the Kuaizhou-1A. It is capable of transporting 200 kilos of payload into the sun-synchronous orbit of 700 kilometers (SSO). CASC and its subsidiaries have also light-lift solid rockets, such as the Smart Dragon-1, which can carry 150 kilograms to a 700-kilometer SSO, as well as the Long March 11 rocket (350 kilograms to 700-km SSO).
The Long March 11 launched the Gravitational Wave High-energy Electromagnetic Counterpart All-sky Monitor (GECAM) two satellites in December 2020, after the former had not flown since its successful maiden flight in 2019 August. The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) had indicated that two or three Long March 11 maritime launches would take place in 2021, however, none have occurred. However, plans for a fresh dedicated launch vessel have been revealed.
The Kuaizhou-1A rocket was launched for the 13th time, with the first launch occurring place in 2017 January. It’s the third failure since September, and it comes after a one-year suspension following a September 2020 failure.
The larger Kuaizhou-11 made its first flight in 2020 July, but it was a disaster. A return to flight has not yet occurred, but it is expected to happen soon. This was China’s 46th orbital launch in 2021, breaking the previous national record for deployments in a calendar year. A year since the successful debut flight, the Galactic Energy firm, which is a private launch company, is preparing for the second launch of an enhanced Ceres-1 solid rocket from Jiuquan.