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 other nations in a bid to take a bigger pie of the lucrative global space launch market.
The new "Long" rocket series comprising a cluster of solid-fuelled rockets codenamed "Smart Dragon" and a Tenglong liquid-propellant rocket were unveiled on Sunday by China Rocket, a commercial space wing of 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 was "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 China Rocket.
China, which has sent a mission to the moon, has elaborate plans to extend its mission to Mars besides setting up its own permanent space station by 2022. 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 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," said the article titled "China needs to cut commercial space costs to compete with India".
India's "achievements are largely driven by its low-price advantage, a weak point for China's commercial space sector", it said. Keeping low costs in mind, the Tenglong 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 first flight in 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 China Rocket, said. The Smart Dragon rocket family is made up of the SD-1, 2 and -3 launch vehicles.
The first model of the SD family, the SD-1, completed its first flight on August 17, whose carrying capability was 200 kg, and is expected to carry out 20 launch missions annually.
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