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LandSpace sends second methane-propelled rocket into space

By ZHAO LEI | | Updated: 2023-12-09 08:37
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The ZQ-2 Y-3 carrier rocket blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Dec 9, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

LandSpace, a Beijing-based private enterprise, made the second successful flight of its methane-propelled carrier rocket on Saturday, transporting three satellites into orbit.

The ZQ 2-Y3 rocket blasted off at 7:39 am from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and deployed three experimental satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 460 kilometers, according to a press release from LandSpace.

The Y3 in the rocket's name meant the craft was the third in the ZQ 2 series.

ZQ 2 is the world's first methane-fueled rocket type to reach Earth orbit and also the largest and most powerful private rocket in China.

The rocket model is 49.5 meters tall and 3.35 meters wide. It has a liftoff weight of 220 metric tons and a launch thrust of 268 tons.

The vehicle is capable of placing satellites with a combined weight of 1.5 tons into a typical sun-synchronous orbit about 500 kilometers above the Earth, said LandSpace.

The maiden flight of the ZQ 2 model happened in December 2022 at the Jiuquan center. The rocket successfully crossed the Karman Line, the globally recognized boundary between Earth's atmosphere and the edge of space, but malfunctioned in its second stage and failed to reach orbit. That was the world's first attempt to achieve orbit with a methane-fueled rocket.

In July, ZQ 2's second launch took place in Jiuquan and succeeded, marking the first orbital mission of any methane-fueled rocket in the world.

The rocket's main propulsion system — the TQ 12 — is the first methane engine in China. Before LandSpace, only a handful of companies in the United States had developed such engines.

Compared with traditional types of rocket engines that can function only once, a methane engine is reusable and more environmentally friendly.

LandSpace makes the ZQ 2 and its engines at the company's plant in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, the first privately owned carrier rocket factory in China and the largest of its kind in Asia.

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