Launch of a new powerful carrier rocket expected in 2022
CAS Space, a Beijing-based rocket company owned by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has started designing what it hopes will be the world’s most powerful solid propellant carrier rocket, the company’s president said.
Yang Yiqiang, rocket scientist and founder of CAS Space, told China Daily in an exclusive interview this week that the rocket (ZK 2) is in the research and development phase at Beijing laboratories and will be ready for its first flight before. the end of 2022, if all goes as planned.
The ZK 2 will have a central stage and two side boosters, each with a diameter of 2.65 meters and using solid propellants. The rocket will be 39.7 meters high and have a takeoff weight of 343 metric tons. It will be able to carry satellites with a combined weight of 3.55 tonnes in a sun-synchronous orbit 700 kilometers above Earth.
These specifications would make the ZK 2 the largest and most powerful solid fuel rocket in the world and even more powerful than several liquid propellant models in China’s Long March rocket fleet, such as the Long March 2C and 4B, Yang said.
The world’s most powerful operational solid-fuel rocket is Arianespace’s Vega, jointly developed by the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. With a takeoff mass of 137 tonnes, the European rocket can place payloads weighing 1.4 tonnes in a sun-synchronous orbit.
“The main customers of the ZK 2 will be satellite companies that want to build and operate a low-earth orbit satellite network,” Yang said, explaining that the rocket is suitable for the deployment of such networks because it can launch a large amount of small satellites in a single flight.
“The rocket will have better flexibility than large liquid propellant rockets … because it is designed for land and sea launches, and liquid fuel rockets are not suitable for missions at sea. In addition, when launched from from a land-based installation, solid propellant rockets are less dependent on ground-based devices and are therefore easier to launch, ”Yang said.
CAS Space is currently preparing for the first flight of its first product, the ZK 1A solid propellant rocket, which is expected to launch six small satellites in the second half of the year, Yang said. The 31-meter spacecraft will be able to place satellites weighing 1.33 tonnes in a sun-synchronous orbit.
If the launch is successful, the ZK 1A will replace the Long March 11 as China’s most powerful solid-fuel rocket, he said.
The company is working with the government of Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, to build a 40-hectare production complex in Nansha District.
As China’s southernmost carrier rocket production facility, the complex will have an initial annual production capacity of 30 rockets upon completion of the first phase next year, Yang said.
Speaking about how CAS Space started, Yang said the Chinese Academy of Sciences now needs a lot of carrier rockets to launch its experimental satellites and technology demonstration equipment. The main scientific body wanted its own rocket research and production capabilities, which resulted in the founding of CAS Space.
He said that one of the most important missions of the company is to provide launch services for the academy.
Compared to other rocket manufacturers, CAS Space has optimized design, procurement and manufacturing procedures, which Yang says are more efficient and economical. The company uses the latest technology and highly integrated equipment on its rockets, which ensures lower costs and fewer problems in design, production and launch operations, he said.