A private Chinese solid rocket has conducted its first successful launch, two years after failing its first test flight.
A Kuaizhou 11 rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 8:15 p.m. EST on Dec. 6 (0115 GMT or 9:15 a.m. local time on Wednesday, Dec. 7), sending the VHF Data Exchange System (VDES) test satellite into orbit.
The launcher is operated by Expace, a commercial spinoff from the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), a state-owned defense giant.
The satellite was later tracked in a roughly 463-mile-high (745 kilometers) sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) by the U.S. Space Force's 18th Space Defense Squadron as part of its space domain awareness activities.
The satellite carries VDES and automatic identification system (AIS) payloads for maritime-related uses and was developed by CASIC-owned Aerospace Xingyun Technology Co., Ltd., as part of plans for its "Xingyun" constellation.
The Kuaizhou 11 rocket can carry 2,220 pounds (1000 kilograms) of payload to SSO or up to 3,300 pounds (1500 kg) to low Earth orbit, making it five times more powerful than the smaller Kuaizhou 1A.
The first Kuaizhou 11 launch took place in July 2020 but ended in failure. Expace also suffered an explosion during testing at the Jiuquan spaceport, which may have been a factor in the two-year grounding of the rocket.
The mission was China's 57th launch of 2022, most of which have been performed by China's main space contractor CASC, including a number of missions to the country's Tiangong space station.