China’s methane rocket puts cargo into orbit for the first time

The private Chinese company Landspace managed to put cargo into orbit for the first time in history using the Zhuque-2 methane rocket. It also announced plans to create a steel carrier with a reusable first stage.

Launch of the Zhuque-3 rocket. Source: Landspace

The Zhuque-2 is a medium-class launch vehicle. Its length is 49.5 meters, its diameter is 3.35 meters. It can carry up to six tons of cargo into a 200-kilometer low-Earth orbit and up to four tons into a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit. It uses methane as a propellant and liquid oxygen as an oxidizer.

The first launch of Zhuque-2 took place in December 2022 and ended in an accident. The rocket went into space for the second time in July 2023. Everything went well this time. The second stage of the Zhuque-2 managed to develop the first space speed and enter orbit. Since the launch was of a demonstration nature, there was no payload on board.

This success allowed Landspace to launch with real cargo. It took place on December 8th. Zhuque-2 successfully launched three satellites into orbit. Thus, it became the first methane rocket in history to accomplish this achievement.

Reusable Chinese Rocket

Landspace also announced plans to build a more powerful Zhuque-3 rocket. It will consist of two stages, the first of which is reusable, and has a stainless steel body. 

According to the company’s presentation, the Zhuque-3 will be 76.6 meters long, 4.5 meters in diameter, and 660 tons in refueled condition. The rocket will be able to put up to 21 tons of cargo into low orbit when expendable, up to 18.3 tons if the first stage lands along its flight path, and up to 12.5 tons if the stage returns to the cosmodrome. Currently, the first launch of Zhuque-3 is scheduled for 2025.

According to

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