A Chinese rocket startup successfully put five satellites into orbit Monday, marking the start of an ambitious launch schedule for 2023 that could give the Beijing-based company an edge in the race to build a Chinese competitor to Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
Galactic Energy’s rocket took off shortly after 1 p.m. local time from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China. It was the fifth launch of its Ceres-1 rocket and the first in a series of 8 to 10 missions planned for this year, the company said, adding that it has completed the orbital launch of 19 commercial satellites, a record for a private Chinese company.
The Galactic Energy launch was the second to take place in China on Monday, with state media reporting a Long March-7 rocket — part of a series used by the government for the Chinese space station and other missions — sent three satellites into orbit from the southern island of Hainan.
China’s successful launches took place the same day that the UK’s space efforts suffered a setback when a rocket launched by a Virgin Orbit Holdings Inc. 747 aircraft failed to deploy its nine satellites as planned. The mission, which took off from southwest England, would have added the country to the ranks of nations able to launch from their own soil.
Nearly a decade after China opened the industry to private-sector investment, Galactic Energy is one of several domestic companies vying to emulate SpaceX by providing launch services for commercial satellites.
The track record for China’s space startups is mixed. Unlike Galactic Energy, most other players have yet to put payloads into orbit. One competitor, LandSpace Technology Corp., last month failed in its attempt to launch a rocket fueled with liquid methane and oxygen.
Galactic Energy was founded in 2018 and is committed to providing low-cost and high-frequency solutions “to make space resources part of our life,” according to its website. The company said last February it completed an investment round of 1.27 billion yuan ($187 million), with the money to be used mainly in the development of reusable rockets.