The Kuaizhou-11, China’s largest solid-fuel carrier rocket, is scheduled to embark on its maiden trek to space this year. The Kuaizhou series consists of low-cost rockets for commercial launches. With a liftoff mass of 78 tons, the latest generation of the rocket family is designed to launch low-Earth-orbit and sun-synchronous-orbit satellites.

As the latest member of the “quick response” orbital launch vehicle family, the Kuaizhou-11 is a larger model capable of delivering a 1,500-kilogram payload into the low Earth orbit and 1,000kg into sun-synchronous orbit. Heavier-lift models are also in development.

The Kuaizhou series is manufactured by ExPace, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation.

Launch preparations for the Kuaizhou rockets are designed to take significantly less time than others, and a launch can reportedly even be conducted on rough terrain, not necessarily from a well-equipped launch center. Satellites can be installed on a Kuaizhou rocket and stored in a maintenance facility. Once needed, the rocket can be deployed on a transporter-erector-launcher vehicle to a secure location.

The Kuaizhou’s low requirements for launch help with cost savings, yielding a launch price under US$10,000 per kilogram of payload, notably lower than quotes from foreign launch contractors. 

A transporter-erector-launcher vehicle for the Kuaizhou-11 rocket, which enables offsite launches. Photo: CCVT screen grab

China also announced on Tuesday that the country’s new solid-fuel rocket booster, featuring a powerful 200-ton-thrust engine, completed its firing tests and would soon be ready for commercial launches.

With a diameter of 2.65 meters, the booster engine is expected to be used on the modified version of the Long March-11 heavy-duty rocket, the only series in the Long March family that uses solid propellants. The new booster can be assembled for launch within just 24 hours.

Developed by the Academy of Aerospace Solid Propulsion Technology under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, it will be China’s most powerful rocket booster engine, capable of catapulting a payload of 71 metric tons into space, according to Xinhua.