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China’s Commercial Carrier Rockets

  • 22 Oct 2019
  • 4 min read
  • China has recently unveiled its new generation of commercial carrier rockets which could carry up to 1.5-tonne of payload.
  • The new rocket series comprises of small space rockets:
    • Solid-fuelled rockets codenamed as the Smart Dragon (SD) family (The SD rocket family is made up of the SD-1, 2, and 3 launch vehicles), and
    • Tenglong- the liquid-propellant rocket (which will make its first flight in 2021).
  • This move can be seen in the backdrop of the fact that China gears up to compete with India to attract the lucrative global space launch market.
    • According to an article published in 2017 in the Global Times, ‘China's space industry is lagging behind that of India in the commercial space industry.’
    • The Chinese rockets will have to create a niche for themselves in the satellite market where the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has already gained a foothold.
    • To provide impetus to the space sector, India has recently established New Space India Limited (NSIL) whose mandate is to use research and development carried out by ISRO over the years for commercial purposes through Indian industry partners.
    • ISRO’s tried and trusted Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has till now launched 297 foreign satellites and has various variants, which are meant for carrying different-size payloads and to different orbits.
    • According to a new market intelligence report by BIS Research, the global small satellite market generated a revenue of $513.6 million in 2018 and is expected to reach $2.9 billion by 2030.
  • Another path-breaking revolution that is underway is the small satellite revolution.
    • Globally, 17,000 small satellites are expected to be launched between 2019 till 2030.
    • ISRO is developing a Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) that is expected to be ready in 2019.
    • It is a prime candidate, along with the proven PSLV, to be farmed out to the private sector.
    • Besides the PSLV and upcoming SSLV, ISRO has also started using the fourth stage of the rocket for carrying nanosatellite or experimental modules of private parties for experimental purposes.
    • Antrix- ISRO’s commercial arm, had generated revenue of over ₹ 2,000 crore in 2017-18, which is likely to double in five years.
    • Developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data analytics has led to the emergence of ‘New Space’.

Way Forward

  • India's achievements are largely driven by its low-price advantage which primarily is a weak point for China's commercial space sector.
  • Keeping that in mind, these new set of China’s rockets are expected to meet the requirements of the overwhelming majority of launch missions for domestic and foreign commercial satellites.
  • So with increasing competition, complexity and demand for space-related activities, there is a growing realization that national legislation is needed to ensure the overall growth of the space sector. A New Space law for India should aim at facilitating growing India’s share of the global space economy in the coming decade.

Source: ET

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