The commercial satellite boom is in full swing. The Smart Dragon-1 rocket is China's first rocket specifically designed for commercial use and the Chinese space agency is rightfully excited about it. Just this past Saturday, the agency successfully launched the Dragon-1 from its launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province.
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This is the fourth time in just under 10 months China has debuted a new small satellite launch vehicle and it is the second time in the same time period the space agency had a successful flight.
The commerical sattelite boom
Also known to the Chinese as the Jielong-1, the rocket is a small satellite launch vehicle based on solid rocket motors with a payload of less than one tonne to Low Earth Orbit. The solid-fueled quick-reaction launch vehicle was created by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology or CALT. The CALT team designed the rocket to be a quick reaction vehicle or simply provide launch missions in a short notice.
The CALT team prides themselves off of the fact that the Dragon-1 can be produced from order to launch within six months and requires only a 24-hour checkout at the launch site, which is lightning fast compared to some of the other competitors.
Another unique design feature of the vehicle is the fact that the payload volume is located between the third and fourth stages, with the fourth stage motor and all payloads installed in invert position during launch.
The satellite vehicle measures 19.5 meters in length and 1.2 meters in diameter and has a mass of about 23.1 tonnes. Even more so, the Dragon-1 can carry a 200 kg payload 500 km altitude Sun-synchronous Orbit. Dragon-1, on Saturday, successfully delivered three satellites into Low Earth Orbit.
The first satellite, the Qiansheng-1-01 is a 65 kg satellite that provides Earth imaging services and carries a 20kbps speed narrowband communication. Next, the Tianqi-2 is a prototype small Low Earth Orbit communication satellite that offers Internet-of-Things technologies. While the Xingshidai 5 is a 10 kg Earth observation satellite.
This is only just the beginning for the CALT team. The Smart Dragon-1 has already secured six launch contracts and has the goal of trying at least 30 more flights. The next satellite launch will be in late 2019.