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China's commercial space sector achieves milestones with series of successful launches
LandSpace's Zhuque 2, the first medium- and large-size liquid rocket in China using liquid oxygen and methane, represents another significant stride. Following the Zhuque 2 Y-3's successful mission, LandSpace revealed plans for the Zhuque 3, aiming for at least 20 reuses of its first stage and enhanced launch capabilities to support large-scale satellite internet constellations.
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China's commercial space sector achieves milestones with series of successful launches
by Simon Mansfield
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Dec 18, 2023

China's space industry, long known for its state-driven Long March rocket series, is now witnessing a rapid expansion in its commercial sector. The Long March family celebrated its 500th spaceflight recently, launching a remote sensing satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province using a Long March 2D carrier rocket.

But it's not just the Long March rockets making headlines. The burgeoning commercial space industry in China is rapidly catching up with global leaders, driven by private startups focusing on reusable rockets and orbital payload delivery.

A Year of Notable Achievements
2023 has been a landmark year for China's commercial space industry, highlighted by several successful rocket launches. A significant achievement was the second flight test mission of the SQX 2Y, China's first reusable rocket, developed by Beijing Interstellar Glory Space Technology Ltd, or iSpace. This milestone, achieved at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, marks a pivotal moment in China's journey towards sustainable space exploration.

iSpace's SQX 2Y, powered by a liquid oxygen methane engine, also accomplished a vertical take-off and landing flight test earlier on November 2, demonstrating the advanced capabilities of Chinese space technology.

Additionally, the Zhuque 2 Y-3 carrier rocket, developed by LandSpace, completed its third flight mission on December 9 from the same launch center, becoming China's first commercial liquid carrier rocket to achieve successive launches.

Galactic Energy, another key player in the sector, launched a CERES 1 Y9 carrier rocket on December 5, successfully deploying two satellites into the twilight orbit. This marked the 11th mission for the CERES-1 rocket series, a small-scale solid-propellant carrier rocket designed for low orbit satellite deployment.

Technological Breakthroughs and Industry Potential
The recent spate of launches underscores the rapid advancement of China's commercial space industry. Reusability of launch vehicles, a key focus for companies like iSpace and LandSpace, is seen as critical for reducing the high costs associated with space access.

Ji Haibo, chief designer of iSpace's SQX 2Y, emphasizes the importance of developing recoverable and reusable launch vehicles to achieve a high input-output ratio in commercial spaceflight. The successful launches of the SQX 2Y have demonstrated significant progress in mastering key reusable rocket technologies.

LandSpace's Zhuque 2, the first medium- and large-size liquid rocket in China using liquid oxygen and methane, represents another significant stride. Following the Zhuque 2 Y-3's successful mission, LandSpace revealed plans for the Zhuque 3, aiming for at least 20 reuses of its first stage and enhanced launch capabilities to support large-scale satellite internet constellations.

These technological advancements have been bolstered by policy support since 2014 when the Chinese government opened the space sector to private investment. This policy change has led to a surge in aerospace startups, with companies like Galactic Energy, co-founded in 2018 by Xia Dongkun, a former senior technician at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, making significant strides.

Expanding Applications and Market Growth
The primary clientele for these commercial space companies remains satellite firms. Companies like Guodian Gaoke, which had four satellites launched aboard the CERES 1 rocket in September, are leveraging these services for applications ranging from emergency communications to ecological monitoring.

The ability of commercial rockets to provide tailored, cost-effective solutions for small-capacity, low-orbit satellite launches is reshaping the market dynamics, offering satellite companies more viable options.

With the commercial space industry's market size exceeding one trillion yuan (about $141 billion), and over 400 registered and effectively operating commercial space enterprises in China, the sector is poised for continuous growth and innovation.

As Liu Lei, general manager of the engine R and D department at LandSpace, points out, the standardization of processes across the industry is driving the commercial spaceflight sector towards a virtuous cycle of growth and popularity.

Based on a Xinhua News Agency article

Related Links
China National Space Agency
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from SinoDaily.com

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