Galactic Energy, a Beijing-based private space company successfully launch satellites from the sea for the first time following the latest launch of its Ceres-1 rocket, a statement from the South China Morning Post (SCMP) announces. The solid-fuel rocket took off from a mobile platform off the coast of Eastern Shandong province at 5:34 pm local time on September 6. The sea rocket launch flew with four satellites to low Earth orbit about 500 miles (800 km) above our home planet.
Guodian Gaoke is the private company that built the four Tianqi satellites flown to space during this launch. Once they reached orbit, they formed part of a low-orbit, narrow-band Internet of Things constellation. This successful launch is just the beginning of Galactic Energy’s move to explore space in full. The company is looking forward to launching its reusable Pallas 1 rocket in 2024. Galactic Energy is hoping that this future launch will make it to become the third company on Earth, and the first in China to launch reusable rockets to space.
How Galactic Energy Launched Ceres-1 Rocket from the Sea
Launching a rocket from the sea is one of the most challenging feats any agency could attempt. However, Galactic Energy, in an attempt to make rocket launching safe for humanity, decided to take its latest Ceres-1 liftoff from the sea. But how did the company achieve such a milestone? The rocket took off from a transport erector launcher attached to a floating platform to space.
Galactic Energy revealed that the launch is the world’s first hot launch of a land transport rocket launch Vehicle at sea. Most sea launches often deploy launch tubes or racks placed on the platform to carefully hold the rocket in one piece. During the Ceres-1 launch, the company attached the rocket to the ship using a magnesium strip locking mechanism connected to the tail end of the space vehicle.
Moments before the rocket engines ignited, the magnesium strip locking mechanism guaranteed the vertical safety of the rocket, which was supposed to be swaying slightly because of the waves of the sea. Immediately the engines started to ignite, the strip was separated from the rocket to enable the space vehicle to safely liftoff. Galactic Energy revealed that its magnesium strip lock mechanism is the world’s first solid rocket locking. It also releases a mechanism that operates without the use of explosives.
Benefits of Sea Rocket Launch
Companies like Galactic Energy will not embark on a sea rocket launch if there are no benefits attached to it. However, some of the primary advantages include the following.
1. Repositioning of Drone Ship
In fact, one of the basic advantages associated with launching rockets from the sea is that a drone ship providing a platform for the rocket can reposition itself at any given time. This repositioning offers great flexibility that makes launching rockets from different orbital inclinations becomes easier than ever. Hence, any space agencies attempting to deploy similar technology can easily reposition their drone ship in the best way that will benefit the mission.
2. Environmental Safety
The sea rocket launch also improves the safety of the environment as it can be executed from a far-off distance away from busy airspace, populated regions, and shipping lanes. Hence, the daily activities of people living in any region will not be disrupted by the attempts made by companies to launch rockets into space.
3. Wider Launch Zone
Companies that launch rockets from ground-based launch facilities have limited launch regions because of human activities nearby. However, launching rockets from floating platforms in the ocean gives companies a wider launch zone for the liftoff. In the future, more companies will prefer lifting off rockets from the sea because of the numerous advantages that come with it.
What’s the Future of China Sea Rocket Launching?
The successful first sea rocket launch attempt made by the Chinese company, Galactic Energy will inspire more rocket launching from the oceans. During an interview with SCMP, a Harvard University astronomer Jonathan McDowell revealed that Russian-American company Sea Launch LLC conducted about 36 launches from the Pacific Ocean between 1999 and 2014.
“Each time they launched from the equator after a long sea voyage from California, which had problems — if your satellite develops a fault and needs fixing before launch, it’s a long trip back. That’s part of the reason why sea launch hasn’t been popular in the US since then,” McDowell told SCMP.
But despite the past attempts made by other agencies, Galactic Energy will be attempting to take the launch game to the next level. The company’s latest launch commenced at about 3km from the coastline of Haiyang. This implies that it took off closer to the land region. The Ceres-1 rocket launch is about 20 meters tall and can deliver up to 400kg (880 lbs) to low Earth orbit. When the rocket arrives in orbit, the Tianqi satellite constellation will now consider of 38 satellites.
Galactic Energy reveals that this constellation will collectively provide data services to civilians and military customers like marine communications, ecological monitoring, and “smart city” communications. The company’s latest launch is the ninth mission and also the ninth successful launch to space. Galactic Energy hopes their new model will enable them to have a high launch cadence. This is because the sea rocket launch method is cheaper than building new facilities on land.
On September 6, Galactic Energy successfully launched its rocket from the sea to deliver four satellites in orbit. The success of this mission has shown the bright future of China’s sea rocket launching. What do you think about this futuristic move by the Chinese company?