China has plans to test launch a Long March rocket in the South China Sea soon, for commercial purposes, a satellites and aerospace expert said.
The rockets will be launched from a platform on the water to experiment with satellite services for businesses next year, an official from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASTC) explained, according to People's Daily on Wednesday.
The Long March 11 will be used for the maiden flight, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology said on November 2.
"If a rocket is launched closer to the equator, its carrying capacity can be higher with lower costs," Hu Haifeng, a rocket system designer from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, told the Global Times. "The South China Sea would be an option for a launch site," said Hu.
China will build the platform using 10,000-ton freighters, which will allow the rockets to carry satellites weighing as much as 500 kilograms into orbit with an inclination of zero to 10 degrees, People's Daily reported in September.
The sea platform is also located far from densely populated areas to reduce the risk in case of an accident, Xing Qiang, an aerospace expert was quoted by the People's Daily as saying.
But a sea launch might also be challenging, Hu said. The launch facilities and technology on the sea obviously have different demands from on land, with corrosion by sea water and the humidity being just two of the possible problems.
The Long March 6 and 11 rockets are China's main commercial carrier vehicles and the series have been used for 60 commercial launches for domestic and international users, People's Daily reported.
Hu also noted that China has a huge market for commercial satellites, mainly for communications.
On land, China has four satellite launch centers - Jiuquan, in Northwest China's Gansu Province, Taiyuan in North China's Shanxi Province, Xichang in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, and Wenchang in South China's Hainan Province.