China has successfully launched an orbital rocket from floating launchpad for the first time. The solid-fueled Long March 11 WEY carried two technology demonstration satellites and five satellites for commercial customers.
The Long March 11 blasted off from its floating launchpad in the Yellow Sea at 04:06 UTC this morning. The launch was reminiscent of that of a ballistic missile with an initial blast pushing the vehicle away from the barge before the rocket’s main engine was ignited. Following the launch, Chinese officials confirmed that all 7 satellites had been deployed.
The 20.8-meters Long March 11 vehicle was given the “WEY” designation based on an agreement between the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, China Space Foundation and a Chinese automobile producer. By launching it from a mobile platform, China is able to reduce danger to the civilian population, negate conflicts with shipping routes and flight plans, and it allows the country to launch satellites to an extremely low inclination.
According to the Long March 11 Program Director Li Tongyu, the sea launch program will undergo several sea trials to verify the platform’s ability over several orbital launches. This will allow teams to optimise the launch process and develop new capabilities.
In addition to the solid-fueled Long March 11, China is also exploring the possibility of launching liquid-fueled rockets from the platform. This would be in conjunction with partnerships with equatorial Belt and Road countries that would allow the country to launch from several locations. These partnerships would also provide host countries with launch services they would otherwise be unable to access.