Chinese state-owned and commercial companies are developing capabilities to launch liquid propellant rockets from sea platforms to boost China’s launch options.
RSpace, a Chinese liquid rocket component startup, is now constructing a 230-acre manufacturing and testing facility for storage tanks and liquid rocket body structures at Haiyang, with a planned total investment of USD 119 million. The project has received backing from the city and province and is listed as a key project for Shandong. The development indicates a concerted attempt to support liquid sea launches and its proximity would ease rocket transportation issues for customers. The company recently conducted thermal and insulation tests on 3.35-meter-diameter propellant tanks. The firm is currently aiming to launch its Gravity-1 solid rocket in mid-2023. The Gravity-2 kerosene-liquid oxygen launcher is to follow. Its prospective clients include Orienspace, which was founded in late 2020 and raised USD 47 million and USD 59.9 million in pre-A and A-series funding rounds this year.
The state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) have, similarly, recently established a nearby final assembly and test base which was used for the first time in May to support a Long March 11 sea launch of commercial remote sensing satellites. CALT is now also looking at adapting its new Long March 8 kerosene-liquid oxygen launcher for sea launch.
China has already demonstrated the ability to launch the Long March 11 solid rocket from sea platforms. These have been facilitated by a new spaceport near Haiyang in the eastern coastal province of Shandong. Now, private firms including Orienspace and CALT are developing larger, liquid propellant Gravity series rockets and adapted Long March 8 launchers for sea launches. The Haiyang seaport is attracting a range of space sector firms and is fostering an industry chain. Having so far used repurposed vessels, a 162.5-meter-long, 40-meters-wide 'New-type rocket launching vessel' is under construction and expected to facilitate its first launch in 2022.