Commercial CERES-1 Y9 rocket sends new satellites to twilight orbit

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China on Tuesday launched a CERES-1 Y9 carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, sending two new satellites to their planned orbits.

The commercial rocket blasted off at 7:33 a.m. (Beijing Time).

The launch was the 11th flight mission to use the CERES-1 rocket series.

Developed by Beijing-based Galactic Energy, CERES-1 is a small-scale solid-propellant carrier rocket designed to send micro-satellites to low orbit.

The commercial rocket is 1.4 meters in diameter, and has a total length of about 20 meters and a takeoff weight of 33 tonnes. It can carry a payload of up to 300 kg to a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 500 km.

With the capacity to carry both a single satellite and multiple satellites, the CERES-1 commercial rocket can be used for various tailored launch missions.

Galactic Energy has served 16 commercial satellite customers and launched a total of 35 commercial satellites of various types.

Tuesday’s launch mission is the first by this commercial rocket developer to successfully send satellites to the twilight orbit.

The twilight orbit is a special type of sun-synchronous orbit in which the satellite crosses the equator at approximately 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., exactly when the local sun rises and sets.

This means the satellite can always be illuminated by sunlight as the orbital plane and the Earth’s twilight line are approximately coincident. Therefore, the satellite can receive adequate and continuous energy supply.

One satellite carried by the CERES-1 Y9 rocket on Tuesday will focus on meteorological environment detection, while the other will provide real-time wide-area comprehensive perception satellite application services.

The CERES-1 Y9 carrier rocket carrying two new satellites blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, Dec. 5, 2023. The commercial rocket blasted off at 7:33 a.m. (Beijing Time) from the launch site. The two satellites were sent into their planned orbits.

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