Two satellites launch aboard Chinese Kuaizhou 1A rocket

Two experimental Chinese satellites have launched on a Kuaizhou 1A rocket from the Jiuquan space base in northwestern China.

The Kuaizhou 1A light-class launcher lifted off at 2341 GMT (7:41 p.m. EDT) on Aug. 30 from Jiuquan, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Two small satellites were aboard the Kuaizhou 1A rocket — one for the Chinese Academy of Sciences and another for the commercial smallsat builder Spacety Co. Ltd.

The launch of the Kuaizhou 1A rocket occurred at 7:41 a.m. Beijing time on Aug. 31, marking China’s 16th orbital launch attempt of the year.

Six of China’s orbital launch attempts so far in 2019 have been flights of the country’s new generation of solid-fueled light-class satellite launchers, including vehicles developed by the country’s traditional government-owned aerospace contractors and companies with more private investment.

The quickening cadence of Chinese smallsat launcher flights is emblematic of wider market trends, in which CubeSats and microsatellites are launched with increasing frequency.

The Kuaizhou 1A rocket is managed by Expace, a launch provider owned by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., the biggest Chinese state-backed aerospace contractor. Founded in 2016, Expace is charged with developing and manufacturing Kuaizhou rockets.

The latest launch was the third flight of a Kuaizhou 1A rocket, which is capable of delivering some 440 pounds of payload to a 435-mile-high (700-kilometer) orbit. The four-stage Kuaizhou 1A rocket, designed for rapid call-up, is likely based on Chinese military missile technology.

U.S. military tracking data indicated the rocket released its two payloads into a polar orbit around 370 miles (600 kilometers) above Earth.

The KX-09 satellite for the Chinese Academy of Sciences will conduct unspecified microgravity technology experiments in orbit, according to Xinhua. Spacety’s Xiaoxiang 1-07 spacecraft, a technology demonstration CubeSat about the size of a briefcase, was also launched by the Kuaizhou 1A rocket.

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