Spaceflight Insider

China launches new Kaituozhe-2 rocket with Tiankun-1 satellite

The launch of Kaituozhe-2 just after sunrise local time. Photo credit: China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC)

The launch of Kaituozhe-2 just after sunrise local time. Photo credit: CASIC

Just after sunrise at China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC), the China National Space Administration (CNSA) successfully flew its first Kaituozhe-2 rocket.

The flight took place at 7:53 a.m. China Standard Time March 3 (8:53 p.m. EST March 2 / 01:53 GMT March 3), 2017, and was the country’s third overall launch of the year. The rocket appears to have succeeded in deploying the Tiankun-1 satellite into an elliptical, Sun-synchronous orbit.

Pre-flight speculation

Pre-launch information led observers to report the launch vehicle would be the Kaituozhe-2A (KT-2A) solid-fueled rocket. However, this turned out to be not entirely correct as post-launch reports now show the vehicle was the less-capable Kaituozhe-2 (KT-2) rocket.

While similar in appearance to the KT-2A, and also built off China’s Dong Feng 31 (DF-31) intercontinental ballistic missile, the smaller KT-2 isn’t outfitted with its stablemate’s pair of supplemental solid rocket boosters.

A brief, post-launch announcement by Xinhua – China’s official press agency – reported the rocket delivered the experimental Tiankun-1 (TK-1) satellite to its intended orbit. Later, a tweet by noted astronomer and space commentator Jonathan McDowell indicated two objects from the launch were being tracked.

The TK-1 satellite will carry out remote sensing tasks and experimental small satellite operations. The spacecraft is the first to be developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), and is an expansion of the company’s commercial space plans.

Following this successful launch, CNSA plans to send two communications satellites into space aboard a Long March 2D. That mission is tentatively scheduled for the end of March.

An artist’s rendering of the Tiankun-1 satellite in orbit. Image credit: CASIC




Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting - and safer - career field. He's worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.

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