With the international space community gathered in Beijing for the 64th International Astronautical Congress, China pulled off a surprise launch of a brand new rocket, the Kuaizhou “quick-vessel.” As NASASpaceflight.com reports:
The Kuaizhou “quick-vessel” is an all solid launch rocket that had been the subject of rumors for the past few months. However, an obscure NOTAM (Notice To Airman) was followed by a launch confirmation via a short announcement by the Chinese media.
Very little is known about the Kuaizhou rocket, other than it was developed by CASIC. No photos or graphics exist in the public domain.
It is also known the rocket – likely on its test flight – was carrying a satellite, called Kuaizhou-1.
Built by the Harbin Institute of Technology, the new satellite will be used for emergency data monitoring and imaging, under the control of the national remote sensing center at the national Academy of Sciences.
That appears to be all that is publicly known of the new rocket at present. While China was apparently trying to impress its international visitors with an effortless launch, neglecting to notify media of the event might have been slightly counter productive to that purpose.
Image caption: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center from which Kuaizhou launched (Credits: People’s Daily).