HELSINKI – Newly developed orbital and suborbital launch vehicles are being readied for test flights at the Jiuquan spaceport as China’s efforts to advance a commercial space sector.
Landspace, a Beijing-based start-up, is preparing to launch its Zhuque-2 methane and liquid oxygen rocket.
The mission, expected in the near future, will be the first launch of a liquid propellant launch vehicle by China’s nascent commercial space sector.
The government opened parts of the space sector in late 2014. The move has so far led to an increase in solid launchers, with varying degrees of success. Liquid launch capabilities would represent a leap forward for the industry.
As previously reported by SpaceNews, Landspace has built infrastructure in Jiuquan to enable methane and liquid oxygen launchers.
LandSpace’s facility in Jiuquan SLC, China.
It appears that the launch pad is currently empty, but what appears to be the Zhuque-2 pathfinder is still outside the main hangar.
Image taken 2022-04-12 03:39:39 UTC pic.twitter.com/8OKF0hVMDX
— Harry Stranger (@Harry__Stranger) Apr 12, 2022
The company’s Zhuque-2 is powered by gas generator engines and will be able to deliver a payload of 6,000 kilograms to a 200-kilometer LEO. 4,000 kilograms to 500 kilometers of SSO, according to Landspace.
Zhuque-2 could become the world’s first methane-fired rocket to make a launch attempt, while SpaceX is also working on a full test flight of the much larger spacecraft.
Landspace has set up an intelligent manufacturing base in Huzhou, Zhejiang Province and a $1.5 billion medium and large-scale assembly and testing plant for liquid missiles in Jiaxing, also in Zhejiang.
Meanwhile, another Chinese launch company, iSpace, is developing its own methalox rocket, the Hyperbola-2. The company recently revealed a first-stage test item at Jiuquan in preparation for performing hop tests.
The hop tests will be conducted ahead of a possible orbital launch in 2023, with reusability being a prime target for the Hyperbola-2. The Zhuque-2 will initially be replaceable, but Landspace plans to convert it to make the first stage repairable.
Ah, better news for China’s iSpace after their recent Hyperbola-1 solid missile failure. Work on methalox Hyperbola-2 test phase for vertical take-off, vertical landing progressing. However, the article was removed very quickly after publication. pic.twitter.com/c5lpBmFqiZ
— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) June 21, 2022
CAS Space, a spin-off of the state-owned Chinese Academy of Sciences, is also preparing for its first launch from Jiuquan, with its ZK-1A (Lijian-1) solid rocket.
The ZK-1A should be able to lift 1,500 kilograms to an SSO of 500 kilometers, making it the most powerful solid launch vehicle in China, ellipsing the Long March 11.
CAS Space is also working on larger solid rockets and reusable liquid launchers.
China Rocket, a spin-off of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) led by the country’s leading space contractor, CASC, has launched a series of tests because it aims for a first launch of the similar Jielong-3 solid rocket no earlier than September.
Jiuquan has undergone an expansion in recent years to facilitate the proliferation of space launch actors and meet the growing demand for launch.
High-resolution satellite images of LP-43/130 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China, taken on 09-2022, show what appears to be the Zhongke-1A rocket in a vertical position. pic.twitter.com/huVEkhqVhn
— Harry Stranger (@Harry__Stranger) June 19, 2022
CASIC also has: established infrastructure in Jiuquan for launches of Kuaizhou-1A and larger Kuaizhou-11 missiles using transport mounts.
An explosion occurred in Jiuquan in October 2021 at facilities in Jiuquan, but apparently has not disrupted major operations in the spaceport.
Jiuquans isn’t the only spaceport expanding. A groundbreaking ceremony for a commercial launch site at the space center on the coast of Wenchang was: held 6th of July
The Hainan Commercial Space Launch Site project invited representatives from commercial companies Landspace, iSpace, Deep Blue Aerospace, Space Pioneer, CAS Space and Orienspace.
The project also aims to attract CASC, CASIC and China SatNet, a state-owned company established in 2021 to coordinate a national telecommunications mega-constellation project.