Image credit: CCTV/CGTN/Inside Outer Space

China’s commercial launch activity in Wenchang is on the upswing, evident in launch pad construction that involves “cutting-edge” technologies and the ability to handle different types of rockets.

Reportedly, by using modular steel structure compared with traditional launch pads, construction time has been cut in half.

Launch Pad No. 1 construction began in July 2022 and was completed at the end of 2023.

The building of Launch Pad No. 2 is now underway with on-site equipment installation to be finished by the end of May 2024.

The No.2 launch pad can accommodate 19 models of nine rocket companies. “That means these rockets can all be launched on this launch pad,” Guo Qiang, deputy secretary of the Party branch in Hainan International Commercial Spacecraft Launch Center told China Central Television (CCTV).

Pad technologies

“The construction of Launch Pad No. 1 marks the implementation of several cutting-edge technologies for the first time,” said Ge Lixin, head of Equipment Department of the Hainan International Commercial Aerospace Launch Co., Ltd.

Ge told China Global Television Network (CGTN) that the pad uses a cone exhaust guide and extrusion water spray system for cooling and noise reduction processes.

“The construction of this launch pad began in July 2022 and has now entered the final stages of equipment installation, nearing completion,” Ge said.

Image credit: CCTV/CGTN/Inside Outer Space

Economies of scale

Both Launch Pad No. 1 and Launch Pad No. 2 have been designed to accommodate over ten different types of rockets from nine manufacturers, said Bian Pengfei, project manager, Launch Pad 2 for Hainan International Commercial Aerospace Launch Co., Ltd.

“By maximizing the number of rocket launches, economies of scale can be achieved, leading to lower overall costs per launch,” Bian said. “To optimize efficiency, both launch pads have been specifically designed to facilitate up to 16 launches per year, ensuring the maximum utilization of the facilities.”

According to CGTN, citing launch experts, the number of Chinese commercial satellites in orbit is projected to exceed 1,200 within the next five years. This surge is reflected by the substantial increase in launch demands.

Last month, the annual blue paper released by state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) said a new milestone this year is attaining roughly 100 orbital launches.

Kang Yonglai, chief executive officer, Space Pioneer.
Image credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space

SpaceX-like rocket

Meanwhile, a Chinese private rocket company is readying its SpaceX-like “Falcon 9 equivalent” for a first launch.

As reported by China’s Global Times, Space Pioneer, a Chinese private rocket company, is eyeing July for the maiden flight of its new large liquid-propellant reusable rocket model TL-3 (Tianlong-3) – specially designed for China’s low-orbit satellite internet constellation construction.

Image credit: Space Pioneer

The first stage of the TL-3 will have the ability for autonomous return and reusability. Furthermore, according to the Global Times, the rocket includes “stainless steel 3D printed engines, liquid nitrogen vaporization pressurization, gas injection accumulators, triple redundant computers, nine-engine parallel configuration, full carbon fiber fairings, single-layer common bottom storage tanks and non-pyrotechnic separation, significantly enhancing cost-effectiveness.”

The power system of TL-3 is the Tianhuo-12 rocket engine with the rocket able to toss more than 30 satellites into orbit at once, according to the Space Pioneer firm.

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