China develops sea launches to boost space commerce
BEIJING, China has a clear plan to provide sea launches for commercial payloads to be carried by Long March rockets, according to an aerospace official.
Tang Yagang, vice head of the aerospace division of the No.1 institute of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC), said that the technology is not difficult and a sea launch platform can be built based on modifying 10,000-tonne freighters.
China will use solid carrier rockets which rely less on launch facilities and feature mature technology, Tang said, adding that key technology for the carrier rockets will be tested at sea this year and the service is expected to be available for international users in 2018.
At that time, Long March launch vehicles will be able to send satellites weighing 500 kilograms to a 500-kilometer-high sun-synchronous orbit with an inclination of zero to ten degrees, Tang said.
Countries in the equator region have growing needs for launching near-equatorial and low-inclination satellites, said Fu Zhiheng, deputy general manager of China Great Wall Industry Corporation, affiliated to the CASTC.
"The closer to the equator we launch a satellite, the less carrying capacity it will lose, and the lower the cost will be," Fu said, adding that space powers are competing to develop near-equatorial sea launches.
Currently, Long March carrier rockets have provided 60 commercial launches for domestic and international users, Fu said.