The OneSpace Technology firm based in Beijing, China, is claiming to have developed China’s first “all commercial” launch vehicle. The rocket is called Chongqing Liangiang Star-1 (CLS-1), and which is also known as OS-XO, uses solid rocket technology reportedly developed by the firm. The rocket, which is thought to have lent on elements of the Long March 11 rocket for its technology made a successful suborbital test flight on 17 May from an undisclosed location in China. Eventually the three-stage rocket will launch 100kg payloads to near-polar Sun-synchronous orbits (SSO). To avoid having to use heavy wiring the rocket is reported to use a wireless on board control system instead.
The CLS-1 launch vehicle is aiming to be a low cost small satellite launcher. The cost/launch price of CLS-1 has not yet been revealed.
Comment by David Todd: The British Interplanetary Society (BIS) has recently conducted a study into the economics and technical aspects of developing a small commercially developed British satellite launcher of the same 100kg to SSO payload class as CLS-1 to be launched from Scotland. From proposed launch sites on Uist or at the Moine, proposed three stage vertically launched liquid fuel rocket would have to do some mild “dog-legs” in its launch trajectory to avoid the Faroe Islands and oil rigs – albeit that these diversions do not detract very much (< 5 per cent) from the payload.
Nevertheless, to pay off its development costs and offer an investment return, the study found that the cost of each rocket launch would equate to about US$40,000 per kg of payload. One wonders here how much the Chinese CLS-1 will do it for? The final version of the SpaceX Falcon 1, the Falcon 1e, which never flew, promised to achieve a price of circa US$10,000 per kg if SpaceX had carried on with its production. Perhaps the UK should offer SpaceX money to licence produce this small rocket – to use pre-flown Merlin engines from the Falcon 9 reusable operation. If done, then the launch price might become very cheap indeed.