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LandSpace's methane-propelled rocket marks another milestone
The ZQ-2 Y-3 carrier rocket blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Dec 9, 2023.
LandSpace's methane-propelled rocket marks another milestone
by Simon Mansfield
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Dec 11, 2023

Beijing-based private aerospace company LandSpace has achieved a new milestone with the successful second flight of its methane-propelled carrier rocket, the ZQ 2-Y3. This launch, which took place on Saturday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, marks a significant advancement in China's private space sector and the global shift toward more sustainable space technologies.

The ZQ 2-Y3 rocket, the third in the ZQ 2 series, was launched at 7:39 am, successfully deploying three experimental satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 460 kilometers. This orbit type is particularly beneficial for Earth observation satellites, ensuring consistent lighting conditions for imagery by passing over the same part of Earth at roughly the same local time each day.

Standing 49.5 meters tall and 3.35 meters wide, the ZQ 2 is not only the world's first methane-fueled rocket type to reach Earth orbit but also represents the largest and most powerful private rocket developed in China. With a liftoff weight of 220 metric tons and a launch thrust of 268 tons, the vehicle demonstrates the increasing sophistication of LandSpace's technological capabilities. It can deliver payloads weighing up to 1.5 tons into a typical sun-synchronous orbit, about 500 kilometers above the Earth.

The maiden flight of the ZQ 2 model occurred in December 2022 at the Jiuquan center. Despite successfully crossing the Karman Line, the globally recognized boundary between Earth's atmosphere and space, the rocket experienced a malfunction in its second stage and failed to reach orbit. This event marked the world's first attempt to achieve orbit using a methane-fueled rocket.

July witnessed the second launch of the ZQ 2, a landmark event as it signified the first successful orbital mission of any methane-fueled rocket in the world. This achievement underscored LandSpace's leading role in developing this novel propulsion technology.

At the heart of the ZQ 2's propulsion system is the TQ 12 engine, the first methane engine developed in China. Before LandSpace's achievement, only a select few companies in the United States had succeeded in developing such engines. The adoption of methane as a rocket fuel represents a significant step forward due to its cleaner and more environmentally friendly profile compared to traditional rocket fuels. Additionally, methane engines offer the potential for reuse, aligning with global trends toward sustainable and cost-effective space exploration.

LandSpace manufactures the ZQ 2 and its engines at its facility in Huzhou, Zhejiang province. This plant holds the distinction of being the first privately owned carrier rocket factory in China and the largest in Asia. The development and manufacturing of the ZQ 2 in this facility showcase China's expanding capabilities in the space technology sector and its increasing contribution to the global space industry.

Based on a Xinhua News Agency article

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