At 4:12 UTC on Jun. 7, 2023, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, the second flight of Kinetica-1, a four-stage, fully solid-fuel launcher developed by the private Chinese company CAS Space, took place.
The Chinese answer to the European VEGA
The two launchers are similar in size: 30 m high for both, 137 t. of weight for the Italian carrier against 135 for the Chinese one. The load capacity is also similar: 1.5 t. in SSO and 2 in LEO for the Chinese launcher against 1.5 t in LEO for the European one. Both have four stages but, the Kinetica uses solid propellant engines in all of them, while the VEGA has only the liquid fuel fourth stage.
Meet CAS Space
It is a private company partially state-controlled because it is majority-owned by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It has a proprietary launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, considered China’s first commercially used launch pad.
The Kinetica program (in Chinese called Lijan – Rocket Power) aims to create a fleet of low-cost, reusable launchers capable of fully covering all commercial launch needs. From small loads such as nanosatellites developed by universities to large loads destined for geostationary orbit, up to space tourism with a vector, the STV (Space Tourism Vehicle), definitely cloned from the New Shepard of the US Blue Origin.
The first launch of Kinetica-1
After the first ground tests, which took place in November 2021, Kinetica-1 performed its maiden flight on 27 July 2022, successfully positioning six satellites in SSO: SATech-01, two Dianci Zuzhuang Shiyan minisatellites, a GNSS-R minisatellite, a Jinan-1 minisatellite, and a Nanyue Science Satellite minisatellite.
After just under a year, Kinetica-1 is ready for its second mission to put this economical launch system up and running.
The payload of the second flight
For the second flight, the Kinetica-1 carried a cluster of 26 minisatellites into Solar-synchronous orbit, prepared by various national research institutes, together with an Earth observation satellite, equipped with SAR Radar (Synthetic Aperture Radar), called Fucheng -1. It is a 300 kg satellite, the first of a constellation of six called Mianyang.