The world’s first methane rocket? China prepares to launch its Zhuque-2 launch vehicle at Jiuquan Spaceport
China plans to test its new orbital and suborbital launch vehicles at Jiuquan Spaceport to advance its commercial space industry.
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China’s Landspace, a Beijing-based launch startup, is preparing to launch its Zhuque-2 methane and liquid oxygen rocket, reported Space News. The mission, which is due to take place soon, will mark the launch of a liquid propellant launch vehicle into China’s growing commercial space industry.
Installation of LandSpace in Jiuquan SLC, China.
It looks like the launch pad is currently empty, but what looks like the Zhuque-2 scout is still outside the main hangar.
Image taken on 2022-04-12 03:39:39 UTC pic.twitter.com/8OKF0hVMDX
— Harry Stranger (@Harry__Stranger) April 12, 2022
The concept of commercial space in China started competently at the end of 2014, when the Chinese government issued ‘Document 60’a document allowing funding in certain areas of the space sector.
So far, the initiative has resulted in a proliferation of solid launchers with varying degrees of success. It would be a big step for the industry to have liquid launch capabilities.
Landspace has already built infrastructure in Jiuquan for the convenience of methane and liquid oxygen launchers.
According to Landspace, the company’s Zhuque-2 is powered by gas generator engines and has a payload capacity of 6,000 kilograms in a 200-kilometre low Earth orbit (LEO) or 4,000 kilograms in a sun-synchronous orbit. (SSO) of 500 kilometers.
Zhuque-2 could be the world’s first methane rocket to attempt a launch, while SpaceX is also working on a full test flight of the much larger Starship, according to the report.
In addition to establishing a $1.5 billion medium- and large-scale liquid rocket assembly and test plant in Jiaxing, Landspace has also established a smart manufacturing base in Huzhou. Both places are located in Zhejiang province.
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Another Chinese launch company, iSpace, is also working on the Hyperbola-2 methox rocket. The company recently unveiled a first-stage test item in Jiuquan in anticipation of conducting hop tests.
Hyperbola-2’s reusability is one of its primary goals, and jump tests will be performed ahead of a potential orbital launch in 2023.
On the other hand, the Zhuque-2 will initially be consumable, but Landspace wants to modify it so that the first stage can be collected.
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The report said CAS Space, a spin-off company of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is preparing to launch its ZK-1A (Lijian-1) solid-state rocket from Jiuquan for the first time.
The ZK-1A will be China’s strongest solid launcher and can ellipse the Long March 11 by lifting 1,500 kilograms at a SSO of 500 kilometers. Additionally, CAS Space is developing larger solid rockets and reusable liquid launchers.
China Rocket, a subsidiary of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), and the country’s leading space contractor, CASC, have undertaken several tests for the launch of a comparable Jielong-3 solid rocket. However, the test will not take place until September this year.
In recent years, Jiuquan has expanded to accommodate the increase in the number of space launch vehicles and meet the increased demand for launches.
EurAsian Times previously reported that an explosion occurred in Jiuquan in October 2021 at facilities in Jiuquan. However, this does not appear to have significantly affected the day-to-day operations of the spaceport.
China begins construction of Wenchang spaceport
Jiuquan is not the only spaceport that is growing significantly. On July 6, China kicked off construction of its first spaceport for commercial launches in Wenchang, south China’s Hainan province.
Hainan Commercial Space Launch Site, another important aerospace project of Hainan Free Trade Port (FTP), will help transform Wenchang into a leading space city, reported State-run Global Times citing Chinese officials.
The site, according to industry insiders, will further enhance the launch capability of domestic and commercial carrier rockets.
“Hainan will make full use of the synergistic advantage of the FTP launch site and policies, striving to make Wenchang a leading international space city and accelerate the construction of rocket, satellite launch industrial chains and data,” said Feng Fei, governor of the provincial government of Hainan.
The commercial launch facility will be built in a separate section of the existing Wenchang International Aerospace City.
In June, the state media noted that Wenchang International Aerospace City hoped to achieve regular commercial launches in the first half of 2024.
Meanwhile, the commercial carrier rocket assembly test plant will be operational by the end of 2023, and the satellite assembly test plant will be operational by the end of 2022. The aerospace industry is one of the crucial elements of Hainan’s future FTP efforts.