Design work has begun on two new-generation solid-fuel carrier rockets at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, according to a project insider.
Zhang Di, a senior space engineer and chairman of Expace Technology, a subsidiary of CASIC that provides commercial launch services, said on Monday that the Kuaizhou 21 will mainly be tasked with serving State space programs, such as the space station, while Kuaizhou 16 is targeted at commercial satellite makers.
With a diameter of 4.5 meters, Kuaizhou 21 will be the largest and tallest in the Kuaizhou rocket family. The rocket's launching capacity is similar to that of the United States' Falcon 9 Full Thrust, and it will be capable of sending a 20-metric-ton spacecraft to a low-Earth orbit. It also will be powerful enough to transport supplies to the country's future space station or to ferry robotic probes to planets far from Earth, Zhang said.
"Our country's future space station will require a great deal of supply missions from cargo spacecraft, and this will create many opportunities for Kuaizhou 21," he said.
The nation will start building its first space station in 2019, and plans are to put it into operation around 2022. The Chinese space station will consist of three parts－a core module and two attached space labs, each weighing about 20 tons－and will operate for at least 10 years, according to the China Manned Space Agency.
The Kuaizhou 16, a smaller model, will have a diameter of 3.5 meters and can place large satellites－those weighing up to 5 tons－into a low-Earth orbit, Zhang said. Rockets in this category are the most used on the launch market so the Kuaizhou 16 will have bright prospects, he said.
CASIC began to develop Kuaizhou-series solid-fuel rockets in 2009 as a low cost, quick-response rocket family for the commercial launch market. It has launched three of the rockets－two Kuaizhou 1s and one Kuaizhou 1A.
The State-owned space giant is building the Wuhan National Space Industry Base in the Hubei provincial capital's Xinzhou district. It will cover 68.8 square kilometers.
The company will invest 1.7 billion yuan (7 million) in the base to build plants to make Kuaizhou rockets. It plans to produce about 20 rockets there annually to take advantage of opportunities from China's burgeoning commercial space industry, according to the company.