China's first carrier rocket for commercial use is scheduled to make its maiden flight in the first half of 2019, according to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALVT).
The rocket, named Smart Dragon-1 (SD-1), is the first member of the Dragon series commercial carrier rockets family to be produced by CALVT, as China accelerates the development of the commercial space industry.
China's current carrier rockets all belong to the Long March family.
CALVT launched the design and development of the small-scale, solid-propellant rocket in February 2018. The SD-1, with a total length of 19.5 meters, a diameter of 1.2 meters, and a takeoff weight of about 23.1 tonnes, is capable of sending over 150 kg payloads to the solar synchronous orbit at an altitude of 700 km.
Since the rocket is designed primarily for commercial use, its cost for sending payloads per unit into orbit is lower than that of similar rockets in the international market, according to CALVT.
It takes only six months to produce one such rocket, and 24 hours to prepare for the launch. It can be used for launching either single satellite or multiple satellites at a time.
"In addition to the Smart Dragon solid-propellant carrier rockets, CALVT will also develop liquid-propellant commercial rockets, which will have a higher carrying capacity," said Tang Yagang, president of the China Rocket Co. Ltd., affiliated to CALVT.
"Innovation technologies will be introduced to promote the development of the commercial space industry in China and to meet market demand."