A Chinese small satellite startup is set to launch a range of satellites on three rocket flights before the end of 2018, starting with four CubeSats on a Long March 2C on Monday.
Four satellites were dispatched to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the first week of October ready to be sent into a 500-km Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). The satellites piggybacking on the China-France Oceanography Satellite (CFOSAT) will launch using a Long March 2C, scheduled to launch on October 29.
Spacety, based in Changsha, Hunan Province, has no plans for its own constellations but is providing satellite platform services to scientists, research institutes and commercial companies, for science experiments and technology demonstrations. It recently received 150 million yuan (US$21.84m) in round B funding.
The company launched its first small satellite, Xiaoxiang-1, in November 2016 and saw two more - Xiangjiangxinqu and Quantutong-1 - fly on the third Long March 11 launch earlier this year.
DIDO-2/Chen Jiayong-1, developed jointly with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and SpacePharma of Israel for a microgravity CubeSat test, was launched on the record-breaking Indian launch of 104 satellites in February 2017. Monday will be Spacety's fourth mission, involving four satellites with a range of partners.
Xiaoxiang-1 (02) will be a technology verification test for LaserFleet, a Chinese company aiming to establish a low Earth orbit constellation of 288 laser communications satellites providing broadband access to flights and has signed a cooperation deal with the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China (CAMIC).
Zhaojin-1, also known as Tongchuan-1 after a city in Shanxi Province through sponsorship, is also the first of the Gamma Ray Integrated Detectors (GRID), a planned Tsinghua University astrophysics constellation of 24 CubeSats. The satellites will pick up signals from extremely energetic events known as gamma-ray bursts, with the main science goal of identifying and locating the electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational waves such as those famously detected by LIGO.
The 6U CubeSat will also be involved in space-to-ground tests with the newTongchuan commercial space ground station.
Tianfuguoxing-1(Xinghe) will be a remote sensing and 'AI' demonstration CubeSat in cooperation with Guoxing Yuhang Co. Ltd., or ADA Space, a private firm based in Chengdu which had two payloads on the iSpace suborbital flight in September.
Changshagaoxin, named for the Changsha city High-Tech zone and marks its 30th anniversary, will be an amateur radio payload satellite and also a technology verification for a next-generation 20U Spacety satellite platform.
Launch will take place from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre on the edge of the Badain Jaran Desert with early indications that the launch will take place on Monday around 08:30 local time (00:30 Universal time). The orbit will for CFOSAT will be 519 km altitude with an inclination of 97 degrees.
Two further missions are expected to follow before the end of the year, in November and December, but dates are not confirmed.
Xiaoxiang-1 (05), Tianfuguoxing-2 and Tianfuxinghe will be on a Long March 2D launch, while more could be aboard the maiden launch of the Kuaizhou-11, a new solid-propellant rocket developed from missile technology from state-owned CASIC and utilised by Expace, a nominally private setup with backing from CASIC and China Sanjiang Space Group.
Kuaizhou-11, or KZ-11, will have a liftoff mass of 78 tonnes and be capable of lofting a 1 metric tonne of payload to a 700 km altitude Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). The rocket will bring a huge improvement in launch capacity, decrease costs and boost international competitiveness in commercial rocket launches, according to Liang Jiqiu, chief designer of the rocket, while Zhang Di, deputy head of CASIC, claims Kuaizhou launch costs will be US$5,000 per kg of payload.
Future Spacety-developed satellites for launch are expected to include the Quantutong-2 satellite, which will, according to Spacety, test the integration of navigation, remote sensing, emergency response and broadband communication technologies, and Tianji-1 and -2.
LaserFleet, another newspace company emerged following a 2014 Chinese government decision to open up portions of the space sector to private capital. Many have received capital from both private and state-owned backers, sometimes with technology involved in cases of the latter, and local government support, as seems to be the case with Hunan-based Spacety and OneSpace facilities in Chongqing.
By Andrew Jones of gbtimes