2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has launched the Changzheng 11 launch vehicle from an offshore platform in the Yellow Sea, Reuters reported. In the future, CASC plans to conduct launches off the coast of countries located in the equatorial region, which will increase the payload of the rocket.
Traditionally, launch vehicles are launched from ground-based spaceports. However, in the history of astronautics there have been several projects in which rockets were launched from the sea. This approach is technologically more complex, but has significant advantages due to the possibility of launching from the equator. The main one is an increase in the mass of the output payload. This is due to the fact that the linear speed of rotation of the Earth's surface is much higher at the equator than in the regions closer to the poles. In addition, if a satellite needs to enter an orbit with zero inclination, when launched from regions far from the equator, the rocket or upper stage will spend part of the energy on changing the inclination. Finally, this approach also has a practical benefit - the mobile platform allows you to choose a place for launching, far from settlements and shipping areas.
China, which last year became the leader in the number of space launches, also decided to use the concept of sea launch. The cosmodrome developed by CASC is a semi-submerged offshore platform 110 meters long and almost 80 meters wide. A launch complex is installed practically in the center of the platform, on which the rocket is fixed in the port. The project uses a solid-propellant four-stage rocket "Changzheng-11", capable of launching a load weighing up to 700 kilograms into low-earth orbit. CASC officials said the platform could be adapted for liquid-propellant rocket missiles in the future.
The first launch from the platform took place on June 5, 2019 in the Yellow Sea. During launch from the platform, a mortar launch is used, in which the rocket first rises into the air due to the pressure in the launcher, and only then, while in the air, turns on its own engine. The first launch of "Changzheng-11" from the offshore platform was successful and she put seven satellites into orbit.
The head of the Changzheng-11 rocket project, Li Tongyu, noted that in the future, such offshore platforms could be used off the coast of the Belt and Road countries located near the equator.
In addition to the Chinese program for the construction of naval spaceports, there are other projects in this area, but none of them is active. They can be divided into two types, the first being offshore platforms. This scheme was used in the Sea Launch and San Marco projects, although the second project used a stationary platform at sea. In addition, in the USSR and Russia, on the basis of submarines being withdrawn from service with ballistic missiles, three launch vehicles were developed: Volna, Calm and Swell. As with conventional submarine ballistic missiles, the missiles were launched from a submerged submarine. In total, such missiles made ten launches, although some of them were suborbital.
In addition to the sea launch, China has other unusual projects in the field of space technology, for example, rockets with a reversible first stage. Such a scheme is going to be used by both government agencies, for example, in the Changzheng-8 rocket project, and private companies, such as Linkspace.