Video: Chinese Company Launches Massive Solid-Fuel Rocket at Sea

Illustration courtesy Orienspace

Published Jan 14, 2024 7:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Chinese company has launched its first heavyweight commercial rocket from the deck of a ship, reviving a concept popularized by the Sea-Launch consortium in the 1990s.

Orienspace, based in Shandong, launched its first Gravity-1 rocket from the deck of a specially-adapted heavy lift ship in the Yellow Sea on Thursday. The launch was successful, and the rocket deployed its payload of three commercial satellites without incident, the company said. 

The Gravity-1 is now China's most powerful commercial space launch rocket, capable of lofting about seven tonnes of equipment into low earth orbit. It also set a new record as the most powerful solid-fuel carrier rocket in the world. 

Orienspace is already working on larger, heavier liquid-fuel rockets with bigger payloads. The future Gravity-2 and Gravity-3 will have a payload capacity to low earth orbit in the range of 25 tonnes and 30 tonnes, respectively. 

China has used ships as launch platforms before, like the De Bo 3, which has served as a launchpad for the government-built Long March rocket series. 

The concept was used for years by Sea-Launch, a joint partnership between space companies in Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States. The consortium closed its doors in 2014 because of the first Russian invasion of Ukraine, which disrupted the operations of Ukrainian ocket builder Yuzhmash.