Date:2016/03/15   Click:   Original publication time:2016/03/15

China  is  about to introduce a new class of small launch vehicle aimed at entering thegrowing smallsat market. The new, solid fueled booster is called Kuaizhou-11,or Fast Vessel-11 and should be capable of placing 1,000 kg into a 700 kmsun-synchronous orbit. And at least some versions of a closely related boostersport an oddly familiar grid fin arrangement, but one used for launch ratherthan return.

From  the  story in China Daily,

The  Kuaizhou-11  ” is being developed by the Fourth Academy of China AerospaceScience and Industry Corp, a major supplier of missiles to the People’sLiberation Army. Its first launch is planned for late 2016 or early 2017, saidZhang Di, head of the company’s space projects department, at the First ChinaCommercial Launch Forum in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Friday.

“The  rocket’s  low requirement for launch conditions will help us save a lot ofmoney. We hope to keep the launch cost under $10,000 per kilogram of payload,which means it will be very competitive in the international market,” he said.

LiangJiqiu,  the Kuaizhou rockets’ chief designer at the Fourth Academy, said thatthe main object of the Kuaizhou-11’s first flight will be to test thecapabilities of the rocket itself, but there will also be some room availablefor piggyback service.”

While  ITAR  provisions continue to impede China’s ability to re-enter  the largesatellite commercial launch market in a major way, the smaller end of themarket may offer different, and more promising results. Depending on what yourmission is, the cat is pretty much out of the bag regarding the availability ofcomponents necessary to produce a thoroughly serviceable small satellite.

The  real  question may be how long solid smaller rockets over of nationality cancompete against a liquid fueled technology base that is rapidly improving. Andthe answer may be that as long as much of the overhead is being covered by thearmaments with which they share so much common, it could be quite a while.

Anin-depth  article in tracesthe booster’s close ties to China’s Kinetic Kill Vehicle program whichinfamously destroyed a retired weather satellite in orbit in 2007, as well asits commonality with that nation’s Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile program,including truck mounted versions which seem to share quite a bit in common withthe generic descriptions of the commercial version. If that is the case, theKuaizhou will likely turn out to be a four stage rocket featuring three solidfirst stages and a liquid fueled fourth stage that can be integrated with thepayload and stored for a rapid launch capability.