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11:27 AM, May 26, 2017
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3-D Printed Rocket Could Challenge India, China For Affordable Satellite Launch Services
3-D Printed Rocket Could Challenge India, China For Affordable Satellite Launch Services

The successful launch of California-based Rocket Labs' battery-powered and 3-D printed rocket yesterday that costs $5 million per flight could challenge affordable satellite launch services from India and China.

The first flight was conducted in New Zealand facility because of the open seas to its south, and a relatively low amount of air traffic, unlike in the United States, boats and flights have to be re-routed for most rocket launches.

On February 15, the Indian Space Research Organisation launched a rocket that put 104 satellites into orbit around the earth, breaking a world record as it did so.

India’s most significant advantage right now is its ability to provide a low-cost alternative to present operators in the lightweight satellite launch market. According to an article in Firstpost, India charges only $15 million for its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launches, aided in part by government subsidies.

But in comparison to Rocket Labs' 3-D printed rocket that costs $5m per launch, making it smaller and cheaper than the rockets currently used to launch satellites. This disposable rocket is 17m long and will be able to carry loads of up to 150kg into orbit.

Early this year, China had announced its plans to provide space and aviation-related services to countries involved in its 'One Belt and One Road' initiative, such as satellite communications, navigation and weather forecasting analysis.

The output value of China’s satellite navigation and locating services totaled 210 billion yuan (30.5 billion U.S. dollars) in 2016 and sector is forecast to have about 400 billion yuan in annual output value by 2020. 

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