This Chinese Company Just Made History By Launching Satellites With Methane-Powered Rockets

Beijing-based Landspace Technology made history on December 8, 2023, by achieving two significant milestones in the Chinese space industry. The successful launch of their Zhuque-2 rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center marked the company’s redemption after a failed attempt in December 2022.

The Zhuque-2, powered by a clean-burning methane-liquid oxygen engine, successfully deployed three satellites – Honghu, Honghu-2, and Tianyi-33 – into orbit. This achievement highlighted Landspace’s technological prowess, especially given the challenges faced in the previous year.

The Zhuque-2, a 49.5-meter-long rocket, demonstrated its capability to carry 1,500 kilograms to a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit. Landspace has ambitious plans for the Zhuque-2, aiming to upgrade its second-stage engine and increase production. The company envisions launching three Zhuque-2 rockets in 2024, six in 2025, and an impressive 12 in 2026.

Beyond the Zhuque-2 success, Landspace unveiled its vision for the future – the Zhuque-3, a stainless steel rocket towering at 76.6 meters with a 4.5-meter diameter. This rocket boasts a lift capacity of 21,000 kilograms to low Earth orbit and a focus on reusability, aiming for up to 20 uses to significantly reduce launch costs. Landspace plans a 100-meter-level hop test for the Zhuque-3 by the year-end, with the first launch scheduled for 2025.

CEO Zhang Changwu revealed even grander plans for an upcoming rocket powered by a 200-ton full-flow staged-combustion-cycle engine, expected to be completed in 2028. This engine will drive a reusable launch vehicle with a 10-meter diameter, positioning Landspace as a major player in China’s evolving space landscape.

Landspace’s achievements not only signify their own success but also mark a pivotal moment for China’s commercial space industry. Established in 2015, Landspace is among the first private companies entering a sector traditionally dominated by state-owned entities.

This success aligns with the broader trend in China, as six private companies have achieved orbital launches in 2023, contributing to 16 of China’s 58 orbital launches for the year. This surge in commercial space activity represents a significant breakthrough for China’s private space sector, reflecting the nation’s response to global commercial developments in space exploration.

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