China Unveils New Commercial Carrier Rockets to Compete With India for Global Market

The Tenglong rocket is expected to make its maiden flight in around 2021.

Beijing: China has unveiled its new generation of commercial carrier rockets which could carry up to 1.5-tonne payload, as it gears up to compete with India to attract the lucrative global space launch market.

The new long rocket series comprises a cluster of solid-fuelled rockets codenamed the Smart Dragon (SD) family, and a Tenglong liquid-propellant rocket were unveiled on Sunday by China Rocket, a commercial space wing of the country’s leading rocket-maker China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, official media reported on Monday.

The new set of rockets were aimed at tapping the growing potential of domestic and global commercial space launches, state-run Global Times reported.

The new set of rockets were “basically capable of meeting the requirements of the overwhelming majority of launch missions for domestic and foreign commercial satellites,” the daily quoted a statement of the China Rocket.

China, which has an established space programme with its mission to the moon, has elaborate plans to extend its mission to Mars besides setting up its own permanent space station by 2022.

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It, however, lags behind in attracting the global commercial rocket market, unlike India.

In 2017 an article in Global Times warned that China’s space industry is lagging behind that of India in the commercial space industry.

“India’s successful launch of a record-breaking 104 satellites into orbit could serve as a wake-up call for China’s commercial space industry and there are a number of lessons for the country to learn,” the article said.

“Of the 104 satellites, 96 belong to the US, which makes India a fierce competitor in the global market for commercial rocket launch services,” the article titled ‘China needs to cut commercial space costs to compete with India’ said.

India’s “achievements are largely driven by its low-price advantage, a weak point for China’s commercial space sector”, it said.

Keeping the low costs in mind the Tenglong liquid rocket, which was unveiled to the public last weekend could peg the launch cost for each kilogram of payload to within $5,000, the Global Times report on Monday said.

The Tenglong rocket is expected to make its maiden flight in around 2021.

The Long series is designed to meet the increasing market demand for sending commercial payloads into orbit both at home and abroad, Tang Yagang, the CEO of the China Rocket said.

The SD rocket family is made up of the SD-1, -2, -3 launch vehicles.

The first model of the SD family, the SD-1, completed its maiden flight on August 17, whose carrying capability was 200 kilograms, and is expected to carry out 20 launch missions annually.

The SD-2 and SD-3, according to the developer, are scheduled to make their first flights in 2020 and 2021 respectively. The SD-2 has a carrying capacity of more than 500 kilogrammes and the SD-3 can send a payload of more than 1.5 tonnes into space.

China Rocket said it will raise 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) from the public in a phased manner to use the money for innovation and capability building in the fields of research of commercial rockets and the development of reusable launch vehicles, the Global Times report said.