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China’s LandSpace Counts Down to Final Methane Rocket Test

Private space firm closing in on last test of groundbreaking methane and liquid oxygen-fuelled rocket


The Zhuque-2 carrier rocket, a methane-liquid oxygen rocket by Chinese company LandSpace, takes off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, near Jiuquan, Gansu province, China, on July 12, 2023. cnsphoto via REUTERS
The Zhuque-2 carrier rocket, a methane-liquid oxygen rocket by Chinese company LandSpace, takes off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, near Jiuquan, Gansu province, China, on July 12, 2023. cnsphoto via REUTERS

 

Private Chinese space company LandSpace Technology is preparing to launch the third and final test of its methane and liquid oxygen fuelled rocket ahead of its commercial debut.

LandSpace’s Zhuque-2 carrier rocket was transferred to the launch area of a space facility in the Gobi Desert on Friday and is now readying for launch, designated Y-3, the company said on its Weibo social media account.

Investors and rocket developers have said methane could offer a way to help slash costs and support reusable rockets in a cleaner and more efficient manner.

The company did not specify a specific launch window for the rocket, which will blast off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Inner Mongolia.

 

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LandSpace is aiming to prove the feasibility of Zhuque-2 with the three test launches – the first two were Y-1 and Y-2, a company representative said on Tuesday, ahead of sending satellite payloads to orbit.

If Zhuque-2 is validated, LandSpace plans to provide clients about three launches in 2024 and double that number in 2025, the representative said.

LandSpace declined to provide details on the launch date or the number and type of the satellites to be carried by Y-3.

Chinese commercial space firms have rushed into the sector since 2014, when the government allowed private investment in an industry now dominated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

LandSpace was one of the earliest and best funded of the Chinese space startups aiming to tap into the demand for rocket launches amid growing competition to place satellites in low-Earth orbit as an alternative to Musk’s Starlink.

In July, LandSpace hit a benchmark in that race with the launch of the world’s first methane-liquid oxygen rocket, the Zhuque-2 Y-2, putting China ahead of US rivals including SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

 

Country Garden Backing

Before Y-2, which didn’t carry a usable satellite, LandSpace said that Zhuque-2 Y-1, the first test rocket, failed a launch last year, without specifying whether it carried any satellite payloads.

Founded in 2015, LandSpace has secured funding from investors including venture capital firm HongShan, known at that time as Sequoia Capital China, the investment arm of Chinese property developer Country Garden and the state-backed China SME Development Fund.

LandSpace’s latest announced fundraising was in 2020, when it raised 1.2 billion yuan ($168.14 million). The company has had fundraising rounds of undisclosed sizes since, Chinese company record tracking database Tianyancha showed.

In July, LandSpace founder and CEO Zhang Changwu told Chinese publication Yicai the company had started developing reusable rockets and expected to conduct a test launch in the second half of 2025.

LandSpace rival OrienSpace, founded in 2020, said it plans to launch its first solid-fuel rocket, Gravity-1, in December.

 

  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara

 

Read more:

China Space Station to Double in Size in Bid to Rival NASA

China Open to International Team-Ups on Chang’e-8 Moon Mission

China’s Next-Gen Rocket Could Take 7 to Moon, Space Station

China Soars Ahead of SpaceX in Methane-Liquid Rocket Race

 

 

Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.

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