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Space


Kuaizhou KZ-1 quick-response launch vehicle

Kuaizhou 1 is reportedly a satellite for natural disaster monitoring. It will be used to monitor natural disasters and provide disaster-relief information for its user, the National Remote Sensing Center of China, a public institution under the Ministry of Science and Technology. The Kuaizhou-1 satellite was launched from Jiuquan by China's new Kuaizhou small quick-response launch vehicle on 25 September 2013.

The Chinese military plans the new solid-fueled Kuaizhou [“quick-vessel” might best be translated as "Clipper" or "Swift Boat"] launch vehicle to provide a rapid ability to replace Chinese satellites that might be damaged or destroyed by an American attack. The vehicle can reportedly place 400 kg into orbit.

China Sanjiang Space Group (CSSG), which is located in central China's Hubei province, began the development of Kuaizhou-1 and Kuaizhou-2 in 2013 and 2014 respectively. To promote the commercial use of Kuaizhou rockets, CASIC Rocket Technology Co., Ltd., a commercial rocket development and launch company, was registered and established on 16 February 2016 in Wuhan, Hubei province, according to Wuhan-based CSSG. Kuaizhou-1 and Kuaizhou-2 have been signed to the newly established company. The company planned to develop more than 10 units of rockets, mainly targeting low-orbit small satellites, in the future. China plans to launch a video satellite of Jilin-1, the country's first domestically-developed remote sensing satellite for commercial use. The satellite was to be launched via Kuaizhou-1 near the end of 2016.

Gregory Kulacki noted that "According to a February 2013 Chinese press report on the Kuaizhou program, this new Chinese military space capability will be operated by the 2nd Artillery, the branch of the Chinese military that operates China’s land-based missile forces, including its land-based nuclear missiles. The February report indicates the Kuaizhou program calls for pre-positioning launchers and their attached satellites at various locations around the country. Should Chinese satellites used to provide imaging, communication and data relay functions come under attack during a time of war, the 2nd Artillery could launch small replacement satellites into orbit within a few hours.... China’s pursuit of an ORS capability suggests that maintaining Chinese space capabilities in a time of war may be more important to Chinese military strategists than U.S. observers and analysts normally assume."

Rui C. Barbosa reported September 25, 2013 that "Very little is known about the Kuaizhou rocket, other than it was developed by CASIC. No photos or graphics exist in the public domain." China Defense Mashup reprints without attribuation the Kulacki analysis, accompanied by what might be thought to be a photograph of the launcher - in this case, a DF-21C. Jonathan McDowell reports that "The solid fuel vehicle is thought to be built by CASIC in collaboration with the Harbin Institute of Technology and may be a derivative of the DF-21 family, like the failed KT-1 launch vehicle of 2002-2003." Norbert Brügge's amazing website has a photograph of the KZ-1 on the launch pad, suggesting a configuration consistent with the DF-21, though not the KT-1.

Access to space has continually been an area of concern for a number of space agencies, both in terms of numbers of launch opportunities and costs associate with space lift. Traditional launch campaigns tend to be unique and require a significant amount of non- recurring engineering expense, sustaining a high cost structure.

The US Space Transportation Policy, issued in 2005, called for the ability to "respond to unexpected loss or degradation of selected capabilities, and/or to provide timely availability of tailored or new capabilities-to support national security requirements." The same policy establishes 2010 as a goal for demonstrating a responsive space capability: "Before 2010, the United States shall demonstrate an initial capability for operationally responsive access to and use of space to support national security requirements. In that regard, the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Director of Central Intelligence, shall: a) Develop the requirements and concept of operations for launch vehicles, infrastructure, and spacecraft to provide operationally responsive access to and use of space to support national security, including the ability to provide critical space capabilities in the event of a failure of launch or on-orbit capabilities; and b) Identify the key modifications to space launch, spacecraft, or ground operations capabilities that will be required to implement an operationally responsive space launch capability."

The military US space community was alarmed by China's antisatellite (ASAT) test of 11 January 2007. On May 21, 2007 the Deputy Secretary of Defense and Executive Agent for Space established the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office as a proactive step to adapt space capabilities to changing national security requirements and to be an agent for change across the community. The Joint ORS Office is working with the broader space community to provide “assured space power focused on timely satisfaction of Joint Force Commanders’ needs.” The end state of the ORS concept is the ability to address emerging, persistent, and/or unanticipated needs through timely augmentation, reconstitution, and exploitation of space force enhancement, space control, and space support capabilities.

Preparation for the reconstitution of space capability following the failure of other satellite survivability measures could represent a solution or part of a set of solutions to the loss, or threat of loss, of space capability. ORS provides the means to reconstitute space capabilities, yet within even this limited scope, it is unclear exactly what ORS will do to perform this mission.

One element is the emergence of low-cost launch vehicles in the space lift marketplace. Relatively new entrants such as Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) with their Falcon family of vehicles, and existing companies such as Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) with their Taurus and Minotaur product lines are making significant inroads into the cost component associated with launch vehicle production and operation. There are other companies in earlier stages of development that also may potentially add to this equation. Other developments such as the reduction of range support service costs could contribute to reducing the overall prospect of mounting a space campaign.

But operationally responsive launch, whether Chinse or American may do little more than provide additional targets. Typical national security space payloads have a mass of about 1,000 kilograms, while ASAT kill vehicles are but a small fraction of this mass [precise numbers are hard to come by, but "less than 100 kilograms" or "tens of kilograms" is probably the right ballpark]. A satellite must reach orbital velocity, whereas a pop-up ASAT requires a much lower velocity, and thus a much smaller and less expensive booster. In the anti-missile business, this is known as the marginal cost exchange ratio problem, otherwise known as killing dollars with dimes. In such a cosmic skeet shoot, the skeet would probably fare a poor second.

China's solid-fueled KuaiZhou-1A (KZ-1A) Y11 carrier rocket blasted off at 11:40 am on 13 November 2019 and successfully sent the Jilin-1 Gaofen 02A satellite into planned orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China's Gansu Province. This is KZ-1A's second launch mission in 2019, the first time the KZ-1A has achieved multiple launches within one year and the fourth commercial launch of KZ-1A, maintaining a 100 percent success record of commercial launches, CASIC said.

Two global multimedia satellites were sent into planned orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on 17 November 2019. The two global multimedia satellites, KL-a-A and KL-a-B, was launched by Kuaizhou-1A (KZ-1A), a carrier rocket at 6:00 p.m. (Beijing Time). The two satellites are international cooperative commercial projects delivered by the Innovation Academy for Microsatellites of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. They are mainly used for the Ka-band communication technology test, and the user is a German company. KZ-1A is a low-cost solid-fuel carrier rocket with high reliability and a short preparation period. The rocket, developed by a company under the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, is mainly used to launch low-orbit microsatellites. The launch was the third mission for KZ-1A this year.

Successful launch of the Yinhe-1 by a KZ-1A rocket around 03:02 UTC 16 Januar 2020, at the Jiuquan space center. The low-orbit communication satellite uses the Q / V and Ka bands, to reach a bandwidth of 10Gbps.

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