Nine satellites, belonging to the Jilin 1 Gaofen 03-1 group, are launched by a Long March 11 carrier rocket at the Yellow Sea, on Sept 15, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Complex to build 20 solid-propellant Long March 11 carrier craft every year

The State-owned space conglomerate China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp is working with local authorities in Shandong province to set up a manufacturing complex for solid-propellant carrier rockets, according to a project insider.

Jin Xin, deputy project manager of the Long March 11 solid-propellant rocket at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, said on Wednesday in Shandong’s Yantai that his academy and the city government of Haiyang, a city administered by Yantai, are cooperating to construct the 800-hectare complex that will be capable of producing 20 solid-propellant rockets each year.

The Beijing-based academy is China’s dominant maker of carrier rockets and a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

“It will be tasked with manufacturing our Long March 11 and Smart Dragon series solid-fuel rockets,” he said. “Construction work is underway and is expected to be done before May 2021.”

The complex will be able to make and test all types of major parts on a solid-propellant rocket, including its engines. Furthermore, it will also hold satellite production and testing facilities, according to Jin.

The project is intended to facilitate sea-based launch missions and nurture local space-related industries in Shandong.

It was initiated by the provincial and Yantai governments in June 2019 after a Long March 11 carried out China’s first seaborne launch from a submersible in the Yellow Sea that month, Jin said.

On Tuesday morning, China conducted its second sea-based launch, firing a Long March 11 rocket from a ship in the Yellow Sea to deploy nine small satellites.

An industrial hub in Shandong, Yantai is aspiring to develop a space industry to tap the rapidly expanding market of commercial space. The city government said its goal is to build Haiyang into a “home port for space activity”.

Liu Wei, a rocket researcher at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, explained that Yantai has several advantages for seaborne launch operations to be conducted from there.

“First, launching rockets from the sea off Yantai features more safety for people living under the trajectory. Second, there are many ground-based monitoring and tracking facilities along China’s eastern coasts. Third, the city has an ice-free port, a good transport network that is well connected with other regions, as well as strong shipbuilding and marine engineering industries,” he said.

“All of these elements make it an ideal option for seaborne missions.”

The next seaborne launches of the Long March 11 will continue to be based in Yantai, Liu said.

Designed and built by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the Long March 11 is the only solid-fuel rocket in the Long March family, the pillar of China’s space programs.