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China’s Inland Space Launch Site Advances Commercial Services

The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, which is currently China’s only site for launching manned spacecraft into orbit, is looking to tap into the burgeoning commercial market by offering more services and stronger capabilities.

Located in northwest China’s Gobi Desert, the Jiuquan launch center has carried out numerous space missions since its establishment in 1958. It frequented media headlines for launching Chinese space station taikonauts over the past two years. But staff members at the inland site are also working hard to support commercial launches, just as they have done in the state programs.

It has witnessed at least three successful commercial launches this year, and the newly-launched carrier rocket TL-2 Y1 is the latest example of the site’s efforts to serve private space companies. Launched on April 2, the privately developed rocket placed a remote-sensing satellite into orbit during its debut flight.

In light of the growing demand, the launch hub has taken the lead to build a handful of new facilities for multiple types of commercial spacecraft, including a new liftoff field for liquid oxygen-methane launch vehicles and one more pad for solid-fuel rockets. For testing and launching cryogenic liquid rockets, Jiuquan has also set up a team of professionals who have mastered technologies like fast and automatic propellant filling.

Construction on the country’s first launch site dedicated to commercial missions began in the island province of Hainan last year.

The first of the country’s four major launch centers, Jiuquan has pioneered techniques to adapt the existing launch site system for high-quality development.

Luo Guanghua, a senior engineer and a member of the site’s commercial services team, said the launch center has taken various new measures in mechanism, management, and service process to make it smarter, more reliable, and more efficient to support diversified commercial missions.