Intelligent Rocket Dragon-1, China's first commercially designed rocket, carrying three satellites from the launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province, China, on August 17, 2019. REUTERS / Stringer
BEIJING (Reuters) – China will launch test flights for its next two Smart Dragon series space rockets for commercial use in 2020 and 2021, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday, as satellite deployment is expected to grow. .
The launch schedule for China Rocket Co, a state-owned unit of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, is two months after the company's first reusable rocket, the 23-ton Smart Dragon-1, delivered three orbiting satellites.
China has commercial satellite constellations that can offer services ranging from high-speed internet to aircraft to tracking coal shipments. Reusable designs will allow frequent rocket launches and help keep costs down.
The Smart Dragon-2 solid propellant, weighing about 60 tons and with a total length of 21 meters, will be able to send 500 kg payloads into orbit at an altitude of 500 km, Xinhua said. A flight test is expected next year.
At about 116 tons and 31 meters long, the Smart Dragon-3, scheduled for a test flight in 2021, will be able to send 1.5-ton payloads into orbit, Xinhua added.
In July, Beijing-based iSpace became the first private Chinese company to deliver an orbiting satellite to its rocket. Since late last year, two other startups have tried to launch satellites but have failed.
Tom Daly's report; editing by Richard Pullin
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