StarCraft Glory Space Technology Co., Ltd. successfully launched its ‘Curve One’ rocket onboard the “SQX-1 Y1” launch vehicle at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China, on July 25 at 13:00 Beijing time, and delivered its the satellites and payloads to the scheduled 300-kilometer orbit with efficient accuracy.
The “SQX-1 Y1” launch vehicle is a four-stage solid-state commercial launch vehicle with the vertical thermal launch, having a maximum diameter of 1.4 meters, a total length of 20.8 meters, a take-off mass of 31 tons, a take-off thrust of 58.6 tons, and a carrying capacity of 300 kilograms in low earth orbit.
The launch vehicle carried two satellites, one from Aerospace Science and Technology Space Engineering Development Co., Ltd. and the other from Beijing Institute of Technology, along with three final sub-loads and two commercial counterweights.
The private company StarCraft Glory, which was established in 2016 and became officially operational in 2017, provides launch vehicle development and launch service solutions, and states its a goal as building a “high quality, low cost, fast response” commercial launch vehicle.
The company has attempted to launch several rockets over the past couple of years, with its ‘Double Curve One S’ suborbital rocket with a flying height of 108 kilometers that was launched in April 2018, and its ‘Star Treasure hyperbolic 1Z’ suborbital rocket with three cubic stars in September 2018.
Numerous other private rocket companies of China have attempted to launch satellites before today, but StarCraft Glory’s launch of its ‘Curve One’ rocket is the first time any of China’s private rocket company has successfully executed the operation.
The reason why solid fuel has been used in place of liquid fuels in rockets
Solid-state launch vehicles, such as StarCraft Glory’s “SQX-1 Y1” launch vehicle, have utilized solid propellants instead of liquid propellants for the launch.
Generally, liquid propellants offer better performance as compared to their solid counterparts, because they are easy to prepare, have large specific combustion, strong thrust, and good durability.
Liquid propellants are stored in the oxidizer tank and the fuel tank of the rocket, and during operation, they are channeled to the combustion chamber of the engine by the conveying system.
Solid propellants, by contrast, are stored in the combustion chamber of the engine without the need of a tank and a conveying system, which offers ease of storage and launch.
The disadvantages of liquid rocket engines lie in the difficulty of fuel filling and storage, high technical requirements along with high usage risk due to high volatility and toxicity. Moreover, they are very large and thus difficult to transfer and maneuver.
Solid propellants used in rocket engines are relatively easier to manufacture, store and transfer, and can be stored for longer periods of time, a decade or even more. They have almost no volatility and airborne toxicity which vouches for the safety of use.
However, rockets using solid propellants face a disadvantage with their smaller combustion ratio, shorter combustion duration, and limited use.
Companies are opting for using solid propellants in their initial space launches because of the relatively shorter development cycle of solid rockets and better reliability than solid fuel provides as compared to liquid fuel.