China to introduce new Yuanzheng-1S upper stage for smaller payloads

A Long March 2C launch. Image courtesy of CASC.

In its efforts to commercialize its space industry, China will soon introduce a new upper stage, Yuanzheng-1S (YZ-1S), for smaller payloads. The new upper stage will be tested this year, aboard a Long March 2C rocket.

Designed to place smaller payloads into the Low and Medium Earth Orbits (LEO and MEO), Yuanzheng-1S is a simplified version current Yuanzheng series upper stages comprising Yuanzheng-1 (YZ-1), Yuanzheng-1A (YZ-1A) and Yuanzheng-2 (YZ-2). Unlike its predecessors, which are all designed for MEO and geostationary orbits (GSO), YZ-1S will be used to launch spacecraft into a Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO).

“The Yuanzheng rocket upper stage family will have a new member, Yuanzheng-1S, this year, serving launches for Low and Medium Earth Orbit satellites,” said Wang Mingzhe of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), adding that there is growing commercial demand for it.

“Compared with the long flight time of three other models, Yuanzheng-1S needs to finish its mission within one hour. This takes a lot of upgrading, such as streamlining systems to make this version more economical and efficient,” said Wang.

All the existing upper stages in the Yuanzheng series are capable of engine restarts and can operate for up to 6 hours, during which they are able to perform tasks such as data collection.

Said Ye Chengmin of CALT, “”In addition to putting satellites into position, the Yuanzheng upper stage family is also able to monitor the space environment and send data back to Earth, which can help gain experience for future aircraft design.”

The news comes just as the Chinese space programme’s commercial arm, CASC, announced its intention to focus on commercialization. It also reiterated the development of the Hongyan constellation, which aims use small satellites in LEO for communications, first announced in 2016.

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