Highlights News Tech

China’s private rocket company successfully launched a satellite for the first time

The Rocket is equipped with two satellites from Aerospace Science and Technology Space Engineering Development Co., Ltd. and Beijing Institute of Technology, carrying three final sub-loads and two commercial counterweights.

According to the official WeChat public news of “StarCraft Glory”, at 13:00 on July 25, 2019, the company’s “Curve One” rocket was launched in Jiuquan. The rocket successfully delivered the payload. This is the third time that China’s private rocket company has attempted to launch satellites. It is also the first success.

The hyperbolic No.1 is a four-stage solid small launch vehicle with a diameter of 1.4 meters. The total length is 20 meters. Take-off mass is 31 tons and the thrust is 58.6 tons. The Rocket’s carrying capacity is 300 kilograms in low earth orbit. Launched with two satellites from Aerospace Science and Space Engineering Development Co., Ltd. and Beijing Institute of Technology,the rocket is equipped with three final sub-loads and two commercial counterweights.

StarCraft Glory was established in October 2016 and officially put into operation in August 2017. It is a private commercial aerospace company that provides launch vehicle development and launch service solutions.

On April 5, 2018, StarCraft Glory successfully launched the “Curve One S” rocket in Hainan. However, it was a suborbital flight test and was not in orbit. This time it is an orbital launch. The load is to reach the first cosmic speed that can orbit the earth.

In China’s private space companies, in addition to StarCraft glory, two others have also tried to launch orbiting rockets and transport satellites.

On October 27, 2018, “Blue Arrow Space” used the “Suzaku No. 1” solid rocket to attempt to launch satellites. Unfortunately, the satellites failed to enter the track in the final stage. For the first time, Blue Arrow received a Chinese private carrier rocket launch license and  official official service support.

On March 27, 2019, another private aerospace company “Zero Space” launched the “Chongqing Liangjiang Star” solid launch vehicle in Jiuquan. However, the rocket lost control after the first-level separation. Additionally, the launch mission was unsuccessful.

Careful friends will notice that three private aerospace companies have adopted solid-state launch vehicles. With this incident, let us popularize the knowledge of rocket engines.

As the name suggests, rockets using solid propellants are called solid rockets. Rockets using liquid propellants are called liquid rockets. In general, liquid propellants perform better than solid propellants. Therefore, most of the launch vehicles use liquid propellants.

The propellants of the liquid rocket are stored in the oxidizer tank and the fuel tank of the rocket respectively. They are then sent to the combustion chamber of the engine by the conveying system during operation. The propellant of the solid rocket is stored in the combustion chamber of the engine without the need of a tank and a conveying system. Easy to maneuver, launch and store.

What is the difference between liquid and solid rocket fuel?

Commonly used liquid rockets’ fuel typically use fuels such as nitrous oxide/dimethyl hydrazine; liquid oxygen/kerosene, liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen, and even liquid oxygen methane. In the future, Musk will use the “Raptor” engine of the “Starship”. The BE4 engine of Bezos and the “Scorpio” engine being developed by the Chinese national enterprise Blue Arrow Aerospace are all liquid oxygen methane engines.

The fuel for solid rocket motors is more complicated:

The most commonly used oxidants are: ammonium perchlorate. Others are potassium perchlorate, sodium, lithium, ammonium nitrate and potassium.

The binder binds solid particles such as an oxidant and a metal fuel together to form an elastic matrix. It also provides fuel elements such as C and H for combustion. Additionally, there is polyvinyl chloride, polyurethane, polybutadiene, etc. Plasticizers reduce viscosity, increase flow and improve mechanical properties.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of liquid rockets and solid rockets?

The advantage of liquid rocket engines is that they are easy to prepare. They are usually made directly from petroleum or chemical raw materials, and have a large specific combustion, strong thrust and good durability. Therefore, most of the world’s large thrust launch vehicles use liquid fuel. The engine is used as a power. Like the “Long March” series of launch vehicles in China, most of them use liquid engines as propulsion systems, and a small number of solid propellers are only an aid.

However, liquid rocket engines have difficult fuel filling and storage, high technical requirements, and high risk of use at the same time. Liquid fuels are often accompanied by high volatility and toxicity. The “Long March” carrier rockets used in China’s launching satellites mainly use dimethyl hydrazine. For fuel, this is a kind of fuel that combines volatility and toxicity. At the same time, liquid rockets are also very big, This makes them difficult to be portable and maneuver.

The solid rocket motor is currently the mainstream power source for small rockets, rockets and ammunition, and most military missiles. Its fuel is easy to manufacture in the industry. Moreover, it is easy to store and transport. It has almost no volatility and airborne toxicity, so it is safer. It has a long life and can be stored for more than ten years, while liquid fuels will deteriorate for up to three months.

However, the solid rocket motor has a smaller combustion ratio, a shorter combustion duration, and the overall fuel quality is large, and is affected by the combustion properties of the solid fuel, so the use is limited.

Why do private enterprises use solid engines for their initial space launches?

At the end of 2018, our representative had an exclusive interview with Zhang Jianwu of Blue Arrow Aerospace. He said that for private enterprises, the rocket is still a very challenging thing to do. The safeguards for R&D rockets, including the supply system and the test system, need to be built slowly. How to use social resources and get the supply chain open is also a challenging thing. It’s more challenging than rocket design. Technically speaking, the development cycle of solid rockets is shorter than that of liquid rockets. The reliability is better, but the future direction is still to develop liquid rockets.

It is reported that Blue Arrow is developing a “Tianzhu” liquid rocket engine with a liquid pressure of 80 tons of liquid oxygen. On the 19th and 21st of this month, the company’s “Scorpio” liquid oxygen methane engine was successfully tested with 100% . StarCraft’s 15-ton liquid oxygen/methane variable thrust rocket engine, Focus No. 1 has also completed the 200-second long-range test of the whole rocket.

How to distinguish between solid and liquid rockets with the naked eye

The engine tail flames of different fuels are different. However, in general the liquid rocket engine tail flame is lighter. In contrast, the solid rocket engine usually has a thick smoke. This can be clearly seen from the launch of the space shuttle in the past.

Let’s take a brief look at the structure of the space shuttle. A solid rocket booster is bundled on both sides of the space shuttle. The space shuttle itself has three liquid hydrogen liquid oxygen engines at the tail. It has a huge external fuel tank on the abdomen. Liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen are placed. When the space shuttle is launched, the solid smoke of the solid pusher completely covers up the weak tail flame of the hydrogen-oxygen engine!

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