China’s got a brand-new booster

The Kaitouzhe-2 (KT-2, or sometimes TK-2) solid-fuel rocket made its maiden flight (unannounced, as is typical for Chinese government flights) from Jiuquan Space Center, placing a small payload into a polar orbit.  Given the tendency to use liquid rockets for satellite launch services (they’re more versatile and more efficient), it’s been speculated that the rocket is really intended as a ballistic missile.  (Solids are more practical for this purpose, as they can be stored indefinitely in a fueled state and require much less infrastructure to launch.)  However, officially it’s a low-cost commercial satellite launch vehicle.  That would also be plausible, since this vehicle appears to be suitable for the suddenly burgeoning small satellite business.  They’re less fuel efficient than liquids, but they’re mechanically a lot simpler, which means they can usually be manufactured more quickly and in greater volume.

Anyway, if you’re like me, what you really want is to see a rocket.  So here it is!


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