A Chinese government space agency successfully launched on Saturday its first rocket meant for commercial use, state television CCTV reported, as firms in the country compete to join a commercial satellite boom.

Smart Dragon-1 rocket, which weighs 23 tonnes and was developed by a unit of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), successfully delivered three satellites into orbit after a launch in Jiuquan, Gansu, CCTV said.

China envisions constellations of commercial satellites that can offer services ranging from high-speed internet for aircraft to tracking coal shipments.

Reliable, low-cost and frequent rocket launches will be key for that.

Smart Dragon-1, whose research and development budget came from social capital rather than state funding, is a demonstration of China’s drive to commercialise the rockets sector, where more private rocket firms are allowed to enter the market to compete with each other, CCTV said.

In July, Beijing-based iSpace became the first private firm to deliver a satellite into orbit on its rocket. Since late 2018, two other start-ups have attempted to launch satellites, but have failed.