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  • At 12:11 on January 9, 2017, the KZ-1A general-purpose solid carrier rocket, which was developed by the Fourth Academy of China ...

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At 12:11 on January 9, 2017, the KZ-1A general-purpose solid carrier rocket, which was developed by the Fourth Academy of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) , successfully launched the "Jilin-1" Smart Video Satellite 03, together with two CubeSats, namely, Xingyun Shiyan-1 and Kaidun-1, marking the successful launch of three satellites by one rocket. This mission was different from a traditional space launch mode as it adopted a commercial launch contract organization form and operated according to market rules. It has the characteristics of new organizational model and short lead time, marking a new step of the Fourth Academy of CASIC in China's commercial aerospace industry.

The KZ-1A solid carrier rocket used for this commercial launch mission is a low-cost, highly reliable, and general-purpose carrier rocket that is improved on the basis of the KZ-1 rocket. It adopts an international universal interface, and is mainly used to launch 300kg low-orbit small satellites, featuring low launch costs, high flight reliability, high orbit injection accuracy, short lead time, and low guarantee conditions. The KZ-1A general-purpose carrier rocket system is mainly composed of the KZ-1A carrier rocket, the ground launch system, and supporting equipment. The KZ-1A carrier rocket adopts a tandem layout of three-stage solid power + final-stage liquid booster. It has a total length of approximately 20m, a takeoff mass of approximately 30t, and a maximum diameter of 1.4m. Its carrying capacity is 200kg/700km on sun-synchronous circular orbits and 300kg on near-earth orbits.

In contrast to the previous launch mission, the KZ-1A solid carrier rocket adopts the "triple horizontal" test mode, i.e. horizontal assembly, horizontal testing, and horizontal transportation, which effectively improves the convenience of operation. It is launched on ordinary hard ground by a mobile launch vehicle, without the use of a complex launch tower, simplifying the launch guarantee facilities. The rocket has an advanced final stage that can ensure multi-orbit launch capacity and high-accuracy orbit injection attitude, thereby meeting the rapid launch and deployment requirements of users who want to launch multiple satellites by one rocket. To provide newer and better "one-stop" customer experience for small-satellite and microsatellite customers around the world, the Fourth Academy of CASIC has created a "KZ" mode for commercial aerospace launch services in the Internet era—pursuing technological innovation, business model innovation, and management innovation; focusing on integration of structure and function, integration of system and subsystems, and integration of hardware and software; adopting standardized thinking; and introducing private enterprises' efficient and flexible experience and technology. CASIC has streamlined the entire process of rockets from R&D to launch service and created an open environment, by extensively absorbing social capital and market participation through open cooperation. The reliability and cost performance of carrier rockets have been comprehensively upgraded, as evidenced by the fact that the launch mission was completed at a "KZ" speed eight and a half months after the launch service contract which was signed on April 24, 2016.

It is understood that the KZ-1 carrier rocket, predecessor to the KZ-1A general-purpose solid carrier rocket, is the first to integrate satellites and the rocket in the world, and China's first-ever small solid carrier rocket with such innovative features as rapid integration, quick orbit injection, and grid fins. In 2013 and 2014, the Fourth Academy of CASIC successfully launched two earth observation satellites, namely, KZ-1 and KZ-2, creating a precedent for the successful launch of satellites using solid rockets in China.

In addition, CASIC specifically develop the KZ-11 rocket using a new R&D model that combines "space quality management + private enterprise operation." This is a new member of the KZ family solid carrier rockets. It is an important move to implement CASIC's major strategic deployment of new-generation space launches and applications, and an important achievement in persisting in technological innovation, business model innovation, and management innovation. KZ-11 has fully inherited the technical features and successful experience of the KZ family. The rocket adopts a mobile vehicle launching method, with a take-off mass of 78t, and a rocket body diameter of 2.2m. Its maximum carrying capacity is 1500kg on near-earth orbits and 1,000kg/700km on sun-synchronous orbits. It is mainly responsible for launching small satellites, single microsatellites, and multi-satellite networking on 400km-1500km near-earth orbits and sun-synchronous orbits. KZ-11 made its maiden flight in 2017.

CASIC's endeavor to develop commercial aerospace is an important move to implement the national in-depth development strategy of civil-military integration, and is an important carrier for supporting aerospace industrialization, serving the national economy and people's livelihood, and boosting the "three breakthroughs." In February 2016, Aerospace Science and Industry Rocket Technology Co., Ltd.  (Expace), China's first specialized rocket company developed and applied using a business model, was incorporated in Wuhan (subordinate to the Fourth Academy of CASIC), providing flexible, convenient, fast and economical satellite launch services for domestic and foreign customers.

In the next few years, CASIC, by taking the opportunity of building the Wuhan National Aerospace Industrial Base in Hubei Province, put its focus on aerospace carrier rockets and launch services, satellite platforms and payloads, space information application services, aerospace ground equipment and manufacturing, and other commercial aerospace leading industries. In addition, CASIC will build a new carrier rocket R&D and manufacturing platform, a microsatellite manufacturing platform, a launch service platform, and a microsatellite networking and application management service platform, in a bid to grow Expace into China's first-class and world's renowned commercial aerospace service company.