The CMA is responsible for the construction and operation!

Small launch vehicle developer Launcher has raised $11.7 million in a Series A funding round, which the company says puts it on a path to reaching orbit with a fraction of the total investment of other launch startups.

Launcher said June 2 that the Series A round was co-led by Boost.VC and the company’s founder, Max Haot, both of whom earlier provided seed funding to the startup. Haot invested $5 million using proceeds of a camera company,, that he sold earlier this year to Logitech. Other existing and new investors also participated in the round, which Haot told SpaceNews was oversubscribed.–166053143/–166050619/–166051098/–166051437/–166051865/–166052154/–166050619/–166051098/–166051437/–166051865/–166052154/

Launcher, founded in New York in 2017, moved to Southern California earlier this year. “The supply chain is here, the talent is here and many of our customers are here, including the Space Force,” Haot said in an earlier interview about the move. The company currently has about 30 employees, split between California and a subsidiary in Ukraine.

Haot said that the Series A round will fund the “growth acceleration” of the team and the new California factory. The company expects to grow to about 70 people by the end of the year.

Launcher is working on a small launch vehicle called Launcher Light, intended to be similar in performance to Rocket Lab’s Electron, which can place up to 300 kilograms into low Earth orbit. Launcher Light is a smaller version of Rocket-1, the company’s original vehicle, which Haot said in March should speed up development since it will require fewer engines.

The company is already planning a Series B round. Haot said the company is seeking to raise $40 million in that round, closing it by early next year. That would support the company through four test flights of Launcher Light starting in 2024. “We believe that will allow us to reach orbit on of these flights,” he said.

If successful, Launcher would reach orbit for a fraction of the cost of other launch vehicle startups. Rocket Lab, for example, spent about $100 million to reach orbit with its Electron rocket, while Virgin Orbit reportedly spent far more developing its LauncherOne.

Haot said he believes that is possible based on the company’s past frugality: it has spent $6 million to date, including a $1.5 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award from the Space Force, that has supported work on engine development and testing. “This level of relative capital efficiency is something we are proud of and provides some evidence of our ability to reach our goal of $50 million total investment to orbit,” he said.

Haot added that his company does not intend to stop with Launcher Light. “A small launcher is a steppingstone to larger engines and vehicles in our road map,” he said, “not the end game.”

China successfully sent the Fengyun-4B weather satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit Wednesday with the country’s 16th orbital launch of 2021.

A Long March 3B lifted off from pad 2 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, southwest China, at 12:17 p.m. Eastern June 2, or just after midnight June 3 local time. 

The launch was declared successful by Deng Hongqin, director of Xichang Satellite Launch Center, within an hour of liftoff. The first public announcement followed from the contractor, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC).

The 5,400-kilogram Fengyun-4B satellite will be used for weather analysis and forecasting, and environmental and disaster monitoring.

Payloads include a Geostationary Interferometric Infrared Sounder, radiation imager, space environment packages for sensing high, medium and low energy particles, an imaging telescope for X-ray to extreme Ultraviolet activity monitoring, a geostationary high-speed imager and a lightning mapping imager. 

The new payloads will improve China’s high-frequency monitoring of the atmosphere and observation ability of a number of smaller-scale and shorter-duration weather phenomena.

Fengyun-4B will operate in geostationary orbit at an altitude of 35,786 kilometers above the Earth for seven years, according to the China Meteorological Administration (CMA). This is an improvement over the five-year lifetime of the Fengyun-4A, launched late 2016. 

Fengyun-4B will be positioned over 123.5 degrees East, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

The satellite and launcher were developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) and the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) respectively, both major CASC subsidiaries.

The Fengyun-4 series meteorological satellites are a new generation of geostationary weather satellites. China began launching the predecessor Fengyun-2 series in 1997.

The Yuanwang 5 tracking ship assisted the launch from a position in the Pacific Ocean. The ship also supported the launch of the Tianhe space station module in late April.

The vessel is part of the Yuanwang, or “Long View”, class of ships used to provide tracking and support for satellite and other launches. The vessels are operated by the China Satellite Maritime Tracking and Control Department under the People’s Liberation Army.

The CMA is responsible for the construction and operation of the Fengyun satellite’s ground application system.

Chinese launch activities

The launch was China’s 16th of 2021, which includes a space station module and cargo and propellant supply missions. 

CASC plans to launch more than 40 times this year. Other Chinese state-owned and commercial companies are also planning launches. 

China’s annual launch rate has increased markedly in recent years. China launched an average of 7.6 times per year between 2005-2009. The country conducted 37 launches in 2018, seeing China lead the world in launch rate for the first time.

Xichang, already one of the world’s most active launch centers, underwent renovations in 2020 aimed at improving annual launch capacity from around 17 to about 30 launches. 

A new commercial spaceport is also to be constructed at Ningbo, eastern China, to support growing launch activities. China’s coastal Wencha

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