August 1, 2019 / 8:03 AM / 17 days ago

Chinese state agency to launch rocket for commercial use in August

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese government space agency is expected to launch its first rocket meant for commercial use in August, putting pressure on other domestic rocket firms to develop their own launch vehicles ahead of an expected commercial satellite boom.

A unit of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), the nation’s main space contractor, is working on the final assembly of its Smart Dragon-1 rocket, with a maiden flight expected in August, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) said on Thursday.

China envisions constellations of commercial satellites that can offer services ranging from high-speed internet for aircraft to tracking coal shipments. Reliable, low-cost and frequent rocket launches will be key.

Last week, Beijing-based iSpace became the first private firm to deliver a satellite into orbit on its rocket. Since late last year, two other startups have attempted but failed.

It would take just six months to produce a Smart Dragon rocket and 24 hours to prepare for its launch, according to Chinese state media.

Reporting by Ryan Woo; Editing by Michael Perry

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