On January 19 2018, at 12:12 p.m. Beijing time (GMT+8) China launched 2 commercial remote sensing satellites for Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co., along with four Cubesats.
The launch took place at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center using the Long March 11, a small solid-fuel rocket that had its maiden flight in 2015. With a 700kg payload to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), the 20.8m launch vehicle has only been used thrice – during its first launch in 2015, to launch the pulsar navigation satellite XNAV in 2016, and during the launch yesterday.
The primary payloads of yesterday’s launch were the Jilin-1-07, and Jilin 1-08, which is part of Chang Guang’s Jilin 1 satellite series capable of high-resolution video imaging. Three satellites, Jilin-1 04/05/06, had been launched on 21 November 2017.
In addition to the Jilin-1 satellites, the Long March 11 launched four CubeSats – the Xiangjiang New Area satellite, the Quantutong-1, Huai’An, and Kepler-2 for Canadian company Kepler Communications.
According to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), this is the first commercial launch of the Long March 11, and its first launch for international customers.
In August 2017, CASC announced its plans to provide commercial launch services using the Long March 11, targeting small private companies and universities. At that time, Yang Yijiang of the Long March 11 team remarked, “Currently, the international market offers launches at a cost of approximately US$10,000 to $20,000 per kg. The cost of launching from a Long March 11 will not exceed US$10,000 per kg”.