China has displayed the rapid launch capabilities of the Kuaizhou-1A system by completing a second successful mission in less than seven days. The rocket carried two communications satellites for an as-yet-unnamed German customer.
The Kuaizhou-1A was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on November 17 at 10:00 UTC. Following a successful launch, Chinese news outlet Xinhua confirmed that both satellites had been placed into their designated orbits approximately 1,250 kilometers above Earth.
Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, the four-stage Kuaizhou-1A is a low-cost vehicle launched from a mobile platform. The first three stages of the rocket are solid-fueled while its upper stage is liquid-fueled. The rocket is used primarily to launch low-orbit microsatellites with a combined payload capacity of up to 400 kilograms.
Sunday’s mission was the second Kuaizhou-1A launched in less than seven days. The last, launched on November 13 from Jiuquan deployed the Jilin-1 Gaofen 02A, a next-generation optical remote sensing satellite. This rapid launch cadence was one of the primary goals of the Kuaizhou-1A system.
On-demand launch options are a military high ground that has long been converted by the world’s superpowers. In a conflict situation, high-value assets in space would likely be some of the first targeted by an aggressor. As a result, being able to replace these assets at a moment’s notice offers China a distinct military advantage.