China’s 19th launch of 2020, the Kuaizhou-11 rocket, failed in its mission on Friday, state-owned Xinhua news agency reported. Both the satellites it was carrying were lost, as per SpaceNews.
The Xinhua report said the rocket was launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, but failed due to malfunction during the flight — the cause of which is under investigation.
Kuaizhou, meaning “fast ship” in Chinese, was operated by the commercial launch firm Expace, and was originally scheduled for 2018 after being developed three years earlier.
Also known as KZ-11, it had a lift-off mass of 70.8 tonnes, and was designed to launch low-Earth and Sun-synchronous orbit satellites, as per CGTN.
It was carrying two satellites — the first being a remote sensing satellite that would provide data to clients on a commercial basis for forecasting and managing geological disasters. It would also provide information required for natural resource exploration. The second was part of a series of satellites for low-Earth orbit navigation.
Both satellites were built by Changguang Satellite Co. Ltd., a commercial entity born out of the state-owned Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as per nasaspaceflight.com.
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The commercial space industry in China
According to an expert who spoke to SpaceNews, commercial launches are an emerging industry in China. Companies such as Expace, iSpace, and Landspace, created after the Chinese government opened its space sector to private investment in 2014, have cut down traditional launch operations and are developing rapid response capabilities, the report stated. This has provided greater advantages for both government and commercial customers.
Since the start of 2020, there have been 19 launches from China, three of which have failed (including Kuaizhou-11). The 18th launch, which took place a day before, sent into space the APSTAR-6D telecommunications satellite — which would remain in orbit for 15 years as part of a broadband communications system for the Asia-Pacific region with speeds up to 50 gbps, CCTV+ said.
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