China's Galactic Energy Experiences First Launch Failure

Galactic Energy, a Chinese commercial rocket firm, has faced a significant setback on Thursday as its 10th launch attempt ended in failure. The launch incident occurred during a launch attempt from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China, around 1:00 am Eastern on September 21.

SUMMARY

  • Galactic Energy Suffers First Launch Failure
  • Liftoff Occurred at 12:59am Eastern on September 21st
  • Galactic Energy Investigating Cause Of Launch Failure

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Published: 22nd Sep 2023 21:13 GMT
Written by: Zac Aubert

Galactic Energy, a Chinese commercial rocket firm, has faced a significant setback on Thursday as its 10th launch attempt ended in failure.

The launch incident occurred during a launch attempt from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China, around 1:00 am Eastern on September 21.

Airspace closure notices indicated the launch attempt, but as the hours passed without any liftoff notification—an event that typically follows within an hour of liftoff—concerns grew about the mission's status.

Galactic Energy issued a statement regarding the launch failure hours later, stating,

"At 12:59 on September 21, the Ceres-1 (Yao-11) carrier rocket was ignited and lifted off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in my country. The rocket flew abnormally, and the launch mission failed. The specific reasons are being further analyzed and investigated.

Here, we would like to express our most sincere apologies to the customers of this mission and friends who care about and support Galaxy Power Aerospace. We will always maintain our awe for aerospace technology, identify the cause of the failure, and carefully organize the return to zero of Ceres 1. and go-around work to ensure the continued success of subsequent launch missions."

This failure marks the first major setback for Galactic Energy. Prior to this launch, the company had achieved a flawless record, successfully executing nine consecutive launches since November 2021.

The company had recently been in a high cadence launch phase, conducting four missions between July 22 and September 5, including its inaugural launch from a mobile sea platform off the coast of Shandong province.

The Ceres-1 rocket, with a diameter of 1.4 meters, a length of approximately 20 meters, a take-off mass of about 33 tons, and a liquid propellant upper stage, has the capability to deliver 400 kg to low Earth orbit (LEO) or 300 kg to a 500-kilometer-altitude sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). This launch was intended to reach an altitude of 800 kilometers.

Simultaneously, Galactic Energy is gearing up for the maiden flight of its Pallas-1 kerosene-liquid oxygen launcher. The reusable two-stage Pallas-1 is designed to carry 5,000 kilograms to LEO or 3,000 kilograms to a 700-km SSO, with the first expendable launch scheduled for the third quarter of 2024.

Galactic Energy's impeccable track record had seemingly secured crucial contracts to launch Jilin-1 satellites. This launch failure, however, is a reminder of the inherent risks in space endeavors, even for experienced companies.

Changguang Satellite Technology (CGST), a subsidiary of the state-owned Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics (CIOMP) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), was established in 2014. With over 100 satellites in orbit, CGST announced last year its intention to expand the Jilin-1 constellation from a planned 138 satellites to 300 by 2025.

The unsuccessful launch was China's 44th orbital mission of 2023 and the first failure. China's state-owned main contractor has conducted 30 launches so far out of a planned 60 or more, indicating a significant period of launch activity in the remaining months of the year. 

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