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China's LandSpace achieves new feat with Zhuque-3's Vertical Recovery Test
Screen grab from the test flight.
China's LandSpace achieves new feat with Zhuque-3's Vertical Recovery Test
by Simon Mansfield
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Jan 22, 2024

In a significant advancement for China's burgeoning space sector, the Zhuque-3 reusable rocket has successfully completed its first vertical return technology test at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. This achievement marks a crucial step forward for the maiden flight of the country's first stainless steel liquid carrier rocket, heralding a new era of cost-efficient and environmentally conscious space exploration.

Developed by LandSpace, a leading figure in China's private rocket industry, Zhuque-3's recent test verified several critical components essential for reusable rocket technology. The test demonstrated the effective vertical recovery of the rocket at low altitude and low speed, a harmonious match between its control system and engine thrust adjustment performance, and the robustness of its guidance and control algorithm.

With a diameter of 4.5 meters, Zhuque-3 stands out for its use of liquid oxygen-methane as propellant-a relatively novel choice in rocket fuels known for its efficiency and reduced environmental impact. This propellant type has been gaining attention in the space industry for its potential to reshape how rockets are fueled. Zhuque-3's first stage is designed for at least 20 reuses, a notable feature that aligns with the global trend towards sustainable space technology.

The rocket's storage tank, made from high-strength stainless steel, is not just a testament to durability but also a strategic choice that significantly lowers launch costs. Estimates suggest that using Zhuque-3 could reduce launch expenses by 80 to 90 percent compared to traditional single-use rockets. This cost reduction is vital for making space access more affordable and frequent.

The predecessor to Zhuque-3, the Zhuque-2, already made headlines as the world's first liquid oxygen-methane rocket to reach orbit, underscoring China's commitment to pioneering new, low-cost liquid propellants for launch vehicles.

Zhang Changwu, CEO of LandSpace, emphasizes the advantages of the stainless steel rocket body. Its resistance to high temperatures and durability are key to its potential for multiple returns and reuses, mirroring the efficiency we see in commercial aviation. Notably, the first-stage engine of Zhuque-3 can be inspected and refueled without being detached from the rocket after recovery, streamlining the turnaround process for subsequent launches.

The success of Zhuque-3's vertical return test is more than just a milestone for LandSpace; it represents a significant leap forward in the global space industry's pursuit of sustainable and cost-effective space travel. As private companies and national agencies alike push the boundaries of what's possible in space exploration, innovations like those demonstrated by Zhuque-3 will be critical in shaping the future of humanity's ventures beyond Earth.

Based on a Xinhua News Agency article

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