Long March 3B and Kuaizhou blast into the New Year

The first two launches of 2017 are complete: a Long March 3B carrying a technology demonstrator payload to geosynchronous orbit, and the first commercial Kuaizhou flight.

Long March 3B blasted off from Xichang Space Center last Thursday:

Close on the heels of that flight, a solid-prop Kuaizhou 1A rocket made its first commercial flight, launching from Jiuquan Space Center.  This is the rocket’s third flight, but the first with a paying customer other than the Chinese government.  Kuaizhou was developed as a low-cost rapid-response rocket that could compete favorably with the increasing range of commercial options presently on the market.  The payload is a set of small commercial imaging satellites.

Falcon 9 was expected to also launch by now, but unfortunately the wild and wet weather currently soaking California has delayed the flight.  The weather is not expected to clear up before they butt up against time scheduled for an Atlas V dress rehearsal, so the next launch opportunity is January 14, weather permitting.  The FAA signed off on the accident investigation and gave the green light for the launch attempt a few days ago, so once the skies dry up again, they’ll be good to go.

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