At 13:30 on January 11, 2024, Beijing time, a Chinese startup called Orienspace successfully launched the Gravity-1 Y-1 commercial carrier rocket in the sea near Haiyang, Shandong. The rocket delivered the Yunyao-1 No. 18-20 satellites into their predetermined orbits, according to state media reports.
The Gravity-1 is one of the most powerful Chinese domestic commercial rocket with a carrying capacity of 4 tons/500km SSO (Sun-Synchronous Orbit). Its first flight, challenging due to being a sea launch, signifies further progress in China’s independent innovation in solid-propellant rockets. It expands China’s capability for diverse and large-scale launches into medium and low Earth orbits.
This follows a series of rocket launches by privately funded startups in China, as the country attempts to replicate the success of SpaceX. Last April, "Tianlong-2″ successfully completed its maiden flight, marking the first successful launch of a private liquid-propellant rocket. In June, "Lijian-1 Y-2″ was successfully launched, enhancing China’s solid-propellant rocket capabilities. A month later, "Zhuque-2 Y-2″ was successfully launched, one of the first successful orbital flights of a liquid oxygen-methane rocket.
Yao Song, co-founder and co-CEO of Orienspace, in an interview with Chinese media, stated that the launch of Gravity-1 provides practical carrying capacity for the launch and networking of China’s high-resolution remote sensing satellite constellations and satellite internet.
The peak period for investment in China’s aerospace industry occurred between 2019 and 2021, with a relative slowdown in the last one or two years. As the last Central Economic Work Conference placed great emphasis on driving industrial innovation with technological innovation and developing new productive forces, the aerospace sector has show signs of warming up. Many government-guided funds and policy-sensitive funds are now focusing on the aerospace industry.
Since 2015, when national policies began supporting the development of commercial aerospace, the sector has seen rapid growth. Multiple launches of rockets with carrying capacities of 300 kg and 1.5 tons have been achieved. Gravity-1 is the first domestic civil and commercial rocket with a carrying capacity of 4 tons/500km SSO.
The three major applications of satellites are communication, navigation, and remote sensing. Currently, the most significant growth is seen in satellite internet. It’s akin to a new generation of communication infrastructure. In the long term, satellite internet launches could account for over 70%, even 80%, of all new incremental launch missions.
In 2015, China’s National Development and Reform Commission and other departments jointly issued the "National Civil Space Infrastructure Medium and Long-term Development Plan (2015-2025)", guiding private capital to participate in the construction of national civil space infrastructure. This marked a significant step for China’s aerospace industry towards combining government and market forces.
In 2019, China’s State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense and the Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission jointly issued a notice on "Promoting the Standardized and Orderly Development of Commercial Carrier Rockets". It provided comprehensive norms and requirements regarding the research, production, testing, launching, safety, and technical control of commercial carrier rockets.