China’s Galactic Energy Startup Takes on SpaceX with First Sea Launch


Galactic Energy has carried out the first sea-based rocket launch by a private Chinese company, just two days after Elon Musk boasted that his firm SpaceX was sending far more rockets into space than China.

Chinese media touted Tuesday’s launch of the sea-borne variant of the CERES 1 carrier rocket from a modified submersible ship in the Yellow Sea, off the coast of East China’s Shandong province.

The launch meant that the CERES 1 became the third Chinese rocket model, and the first produced by a private company, able to make lift-off both on land and at sea.

This screen grab shows the launch by Galactic Energy of its Ceres 1 rocket which transported four satellites into orbit.
Screen grab via social media

Galactic Energy was founded in early 2018 by former workers of the state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). In November 2020, it became the second private Chinese launch firm to place a satellite in orbit.

Tuesday saw Galactic Energy’s ninth consecutive successful orbital launch, which Chinese media said surpassed the country’s other private competitors.

The launch sent into orbit satellites Tianqi (Apocalypse) 21-24, built by Beijing-based operator Guodian Gaoke. They will be part of a constellation of 38 low-orbit satellites and several ground stations due to be operational next year.

Chinese government newspaper the Global Times called it the latest breakthrough in China’s commercial launch sector, partly because it was the first unguided thermal launch of a solid rocket at sea.

Yang Yuguang, vice chair of Space Transportation Committee at the International Astronautical Federation, told the outlet the launch had faced “challenging technologies, meanwhile, it advances China’s prowess in the global fronts.”

The state outlet also said that the firm was ramping up its launch rate, launching five times this year, including four since July 22. It is also preparing for the first launch of its reusable Pallas-1 kerosene-liquid oxygen launcher.

However, Galactic Energy still has some way to catch up to SpaceX, which on Sunday broke its own record for the number of launches in a single year. Musk’s firm sent its 62nd rocket into space after a Falcon 9 carrying Starlink internet satellites lifted off from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It was the 10th flight for the first stage booster rocket and SpaceX broke a record for launching reused rockets.

SpaceX boss Elon Musk said his firm could complete up to 100 rocket launches this year which would make it the most prolific company or space agency to send payloads into space.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), he claimed bragging rights over China. He wrote that his firm had delivered 80 per cent of all Earth payload mass into orbit this year. “China is ~10 per cent and rest of world other ~10 per cent,” Musk added.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here