Kuaizhou-1A rocket

GeeSAT | Kuaizhou-1A

Lift Off Time
December 15, 2021 – 02:00 UTC | 10:00 BJT
Mission Name
GeeSAT-1A & 1B
Launch Provider
(What rocket company launched it?)
ExPace (part of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation CASIC)
(Who paid for this?)
Launch Location
Site 95, Jiuquan Space Launch Complex, North West China
Payload mass
Unknown, but up to 300 kg (660 lb)
Where did the satellite go?
Unknown low-Earth orbit
Did they attempt to recover the first stage?
No, the Kuaizhou is not capable of booster recovery
Where did the first stage land?
It crash landed in remote countryside
Did they attempt to recover the fairings?
No, the Kuaizhou is not capable of fairing recovery
Were these fairings new?
This was the:
– 14th launch of a Kuaizhou 1A rocket
– 132nd orbital launch attempt of 2021
– 8th orbital launch failure of 2021
Where to watch
If available, and official replay will be listed here

How Did It Go?

ExPace failed to place a pair of GeeSATs into low-Earth orbit following a failure with the rocket. The Chinese state news stated that there was “abnormal performance” during the rockets flight, and noted that an investigation has been started into the cause of the failure. This was the first launch of a GeeSAT.

What Is GeeSAT?

The GeeSAT satellites are private Chinese navigation satellites. Used to provide centimeter-level positioning services to marine, automotive, and unmanned vehicle operations, the GeeSATs were developed by Geespace, which is part of the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.

This was the first launch of the GeeSAT constellation, and as the launch vehicle had an anomaly the constellation contains 0 satellites.


The Kuaizhou launch vehicle is a four stage small-lift launch vehicle, meant for sending small sats to low-Earth orbit. The vehicle is similar in both size and capability to Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle; however, unlike Electron the first three stages of Kuaizhou are solid fuel, with only the last stage being liquid fueled.

KuaiZhou-1A, assembly building
Kuaizhou-1A rocket (Credit: ExPace)

First flying in 2017, Kuaizhou-1A is based on the two-stage DF-21 medium-range ballistic missile. It can loft up to 300 kg to a 500 km low-Earth orbit, or 250 kg into a 500 km Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO).

Overall, the rocket is 20 m (~66 ft) tall with a maximum width of 1.4 m (~4 ft). At take-off, it has a mass of 30 tonnes, and flies from a mobile transporter-erector vehicle, rather than a fixed launch pad.

Kuaizhou, mobile launcher
Kuaizhou-1A mobile launcher vehicle (Credit: ExPace)

“Kuai zhou” means “fast vessel,” signifying that the launch preparations only require six members and can be carried out in under 24 hours.

Kuaizhou-1A. Rocket specifications
Kuaizhou-1A specifications (Credit: ExPace)

Kuaizhou-1A First Stage

The first stage is 1.4 m wide and has a solid fuel motor. It has a mass of 16.6 metric tons at take off, after which the solid motor burns for 65 s, delivering 2,352 Ns/kg (239.8 lbf s/lb) of thrust. Stage separation occurs 83 seconds into the flight when the vehicle is about 36 km in altitude.

Kuaizhou-1A Second Stage

The second stage is also 1.4 m in diameter and also uses a solid fuel motor. The second stage is shorter than the first stage but not by much. The mass of this stage is 8,686 kg. The motor burns for 62 seconds, providing 2,810 Ns/kg (286.5 lbf s/lb) of thrust. Stage separation takes place 161 seconds into the flight.

Kuaizhou-1A Third Stage

The third stage is slightly slimmer than the first two, at 1.2 m. It is significantly shorter than the second stage. This stage has a mass of 3,183 kg, and its motor burns for 55 seconds, giving 2,850 Ns/kg (290.6 lbf s/lb).

Kuaizhou-1A Fourth Stage

The fourth stage is the only part of the rocket that uses liquid fuel. It uses Monomethylhydrazine (MMH) for fuel and Nitrogen Tetroxide (N2O4) as oxidizer. Similar to the 3rd stage, it is also 1.2 m wide.

Liquid booster, control segment
Liquid booster control segment (Credit: ExPace)

After stage 4 shutdown, the stage coasts for about 8 seconds. This is so that the vehicle will have the appropriate angular velocities for correct payload deployment.

Kuaizhou-1A, launch profile
Kuaizhou-1A launch profile (Credit: ExPace)

Launch Sequence And Countdown

Time before launchProcedure
T-240 minPrepare for launch; launch vehicle erection
T-200 minThe whole checking of the launch vehicle
T-190 minSatellite test (The test is allocated 1 hour, but the time could be adjusted based on the actual situation)
T-130 minInstall lattice rudders
T-95 minAiming
T-70 minCorrection of guidance before launch
T-25 minCommunication & Tracking System power-on
T-15 minRecall satellite with GPS/BD2
T-10 minDemolition of defend breeze block
T-9 min 30 secCommunication & Tracking System starts work
T-9 min 30 secStart the flow of launch
T-2 minControl System power switch-over
T-1 minAutomatic ignition procedure start; engine gimbal check, safety control turning to internal power
T-0 secIgnition
Typical Pre-Launch Countdown Procedure (Credit: ExPace KZ-1A User’s Manual v1.1)

Rocket section adapted from Andy Law.


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