(ORDO NEWS) — The private Chinese company i-Space attempted to return to flying with the Hyperbola-1 (SQX-1) rocket early Friday morning. Hyperbola-1 has had a troubled past, failing to deliver a payload into orbit on three of its four flights (including the current one).
The rocket carried the Jilin-1 Mofang-01A(R) satellite, replacing the Jilin Mofang-01A satellite that had been launched on the previous Hyperbola-1 flight, which ultimately failed to reach its intended orbit.
Although official reports at the time of publication do not mention the cause of the failure, it is assumed that shortly after separation, the second stage failed to turn on the engine.
The Jilin-1 satellites are a series of commercial remote sensing satellites designed for high-definition video filming within the Jilin-1 constellation. The satellites are developed and operated by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Company. They weigh just 18 kg, carry imaging systems, and are powered by a pair of solar panels.
The ill-fated launch was made from the Jiuquan Space Center, located in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
It was China’s first satellite launch center and is used to launch many launch vehicles of various families, most notably the Long March 2D, Long March 2F (China’s only crewed rocket) and Long March 4B.
Founded in 1958, the launch center is part of the Dongfeng Space City and includes the People’s Liberation Army Air Force Test Base and Space Museum.
Jiuquan was originally used to launch scientific and reentry satellites into high inclination low or medium earth orbits. On July 25, 2019, China’s first private orbital launch of Hyperbola-1 took place at this site.
i-Space became the first private Chinese company to reach orbit on this flight. She also developed the Hyperbola-1 rocket using solid rocket motors from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CAST).
Before the successful first flight of Hyperbola-1, i-Space first launched suborbital versions of the Hyperbola-1S and Hyperbola-1Z rockets, which had a top speed of 1.6 km/s and reached an altitude of 175 km.
The orbital rocket is a four-stage solid-propellant launch vehicle 24 meters high, 1.4 meters in diameter with a launch weight of 42 tons.
Each of the four solid propellant stages contains four liquid propellant orientation thrusters. The rocket can lift 300 kg into low earth orbit.
Hyperbola-1 has launched four times, including today’s mission, but only the first attempt reached orbit.
The first flight in July 2019 launched several payloads, including the CAS-7B amateur radio satellite developed with the assistance of the Beijing Institute of Technology and a CCTV verification satellite.
To date, this is the only successful rocket mission.
A second launch in February 2021 ended in failure shortly after liftoff, with images showing debris falling into the desert around the launch pad.
After a month-long investigation, it was determined that a piece of foam insulation installed on the rocket was the cause of the failure.
The insulation was designed to be released from the outside of the rocket during ascent, but it flew into one of the four lattice rudders located on the first stage, which are designed to provide control and stability during ascent.
The only confirmed payload on board during the second flight was a 6U CubeSat called Fangzhou-2 (“Ark-2”). The satellite was supposed to test technologies that are planned to be used on future satellites of the Fangzhou family.
The third flight took place in August 2021 and ended in failure due to a problem with separation of the payload fairing.
Today’s launch was the fourth flight of Hyperbola-1 and the third unsuccessful in a row.
The launch was made from pad 95B of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 07:09 UTC on 13 May. According to a Notice to Flight Crew (NOTAM) issued prior to launch, the vehicle was to travel south of the launch pad, suggesting that its target is a polar/sun-synchronous orbit, as was the case on previous rocket flights.
Chinese state news agency Xinhua released a brief statement hours after the launch, confirming the launch time and that it was not successful.
The report stated that the satellite “did not enter its nominal orbit after separation” and that not all mission objectives were achieved.
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