The story of private aerospace firm SpaceX, one of many companies started by the visionary Elon Musk, is well known and documented. It spoke of determination, as when SpaceX put all their efforts into realizing the concept of a reusable rocket delivery system that would greatly cut down costs in both satellite launching and potentially manned space flight. Already their space capsules have deployed satellites into orbit, and sent vital resupplies to the International Space Station. The success of SpaceX is something other private space startups hope to emulate. One Chinese firm has gone so far as to launch its own rocket lately, only to not quite make it through.
As The Verge tells it, the past weekend saw Chinese private aerospace startup LandSpace perform a test launch of their Zhuque-1 3-stage rocket system. While the launch vehicle managed to take off without incident from its pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, its thrust capacity was not enough to achieve escape velocity, the necessary speed to completely negate Earth’s gravitational force to make it all the way to space orbit. LandSpace, based in Beijing is one of many privatized aerospace startups that have emerged following approval from the Chinese Communist government for the private sector to enter the space industry.
LandSpace explained the orbital launch failure of their Zhuque-1 rocket on its official page on Chinese social media platform Weibo. They explained that everything in the launching sequence occurred without incident until it was time for the rocket’s third stage to ignite. A system error occurred at that critical juncture, preventing the Zhuque-1 from maintaining its momentum. Nevertheless, the company has considered the launch attempt successful, as the first two stages managed to burn properly. Thought it was designated a test launch, the Zhuque 1 did carry an actual payload, a transmission satellite for the Chinese state TV network CCTV.
While originally relying solely on the facilities and launch vehicles of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the country opened the space launching door to private firms in 2014. LandSpace came into the picture after being founded the following year, and while it was the first Chinese commercial space launch to actually try for orbit, actual rocket flights to sub-orbital altitude have been undertaken earlier by another Beijing-based company, OneSpace, in May and then September.
Following the first launch of their Zhuque-1 vehicle, LandSpace announced that they will continue to move their rocket designs forward, especially since they were the first private startup given a vital rocket launch license from the government. OneSpace for their part is planning on no less than 10 launch missions in 2019, though they have not specified if one of them will go to orbit.
Image courtesy of SpaceNews