Chinese private rocket startup Galactic Energy makes six consecutive space launches

China's private rocket firm Galactic Energy launched its sixth Ceres 1 rocket on Saturday, deploying two satellites into a preset orbit.  Image: Courtesy of Galactic Energy

China’s private rocket firm Galactic Energy launched its sixth Ceres 1 rocket on Saturday, deploying two satellites into a preset orbit. Image: Courtesy of Galactic Energy

Galactic Energy, a private carrier rocket developer, launched its sixth Ceres 1 rocket on Saturday, successfully sending two satellites into orbit. The launch, which kicks off the firm’s high-density delivery and launch cycle in the second half of the year, marks the latest efforts by China’s private enterprises to boost their R&D capabilities and launch rockets, the expert said.

The Ceres 1 Y6 rocket blasted off Saturday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China.

The two satellites on board the rocket include the country’s first ultra-low orbit test satellite named Qiankun-1, which is used to verify the achievements of ultra-low orbit technology and develop an advanced aerospace intelligent platform, helping to fill the gap in the use of ultra-low orbit space technology.

While the other satellite, developed by ADA-Space, a private satellite firm in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, is used for hyperspectral remote sensing.

“The launch marks that the company has officially begun a high-density launch and delivery cycle in the second half of the year,” Galactic Energy said in a statement sent to the Global Times.

High-density launch is the path a rocket firm must take for its rocket products to mature from the lab to the assembly line, entering large-scale production.

Before Saturday’s launch, the Beijing-based start-up had achieved five consecutive launches after making a debut flight in November 2020 from the Jiuquan launch site. It has sent 19 satellites into orbits in total.

Galactic Energy plans to conduct some of its future launches at sea early next year, a PR representative from the firm told the Global Times.

Ceres 1 is a four-stage launch vehicle independently designed by Galactic Energy. The solid engine is used in the first, second and third stages, while the advanced liquid upper stage is the fourth.

“Consecutive successful launches by domestic private players over the past few years have amply proved their continued growth in capabilities, and they are quickly catching up with state-owned players with long-term accumulated advantages,” Huang Zhicheng, a Chinese expert on aerospace science and technology, told the Global Times.

“They have even surpassed state-owned players in some areas,” Huang added.

Earlier this month, another private rocket firm LandSpace launched the world’s first liquid oxygen, liquid methane carrier rocket from Jiuquan. The launch puts China at the forefront of the global space race for methane-based rockets.

Creating less pollution, and delivering better safety results at a lower cost, methane-liquid rockets are viewed as a suitable propellant for reusable rockets, which is the direction many rocket firms are aiming for.

After passing the threshold for orbital launch, the next battleground has arrived – making the rocket usable again, Huang said.

For example, Galactic Energy is developing the Pallas 1, a larger, reusable liquid-propellant rocket model.

The private sector of the commercial space has accelerated the pace of development fueled by favorable policies, adequate capital support and competitive tech fundamentals, and its prospects are attractive, according to Huang.

China’s commercial space market size has maintained rapid growth since 2015 with an expected annual growth rate of more than 20 percent from 2017 to 2024. The market size is estimated to reach 2.34 trillion yuan ($326 billion) by 2024, according to market research firm iiMedia Research.

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