China on Wednesday successfully launched the world’s first methane-powered rocket into space.
The development marked the first orbital mission fueled by methane, a cutting-edge technology that until now had only been developed by the American companies SpaceX and Blue Origin.
The rocket, named Zhuque-2 Y2, lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China’s Gobi desert, said its manufacturer LandSpace, a private Chinese space company.
LandSpace claimed that the success of the mission verified various schemes of the rocket and laid a solid foundation for the development of reusable rockets in the next stage, according to national broadcaster CGTN.
The rocket uses liquid methane as fuel and liquid oxygen as an oxidizer – a non-toxic mix of reusable components also known as “methalox.”
The launcher has a two-stage configuration, with a diameter of 3.35 meters, a height of 49.5 meters, a takeoff weight of 219 tons, and a takeoff thrust of 268 tons.
It is the second test flight of the Zhuque-2 after a failed attempt in December last year.
The latest mission took a series of improvement measures and verified their effectiveness through simulations, ground tests, and engine tests.
LandSpace said that after the successful test flight, they would “further optimize” the rocket, “accumulate experiences for its reliability and safety,” and “lay the foundation to bring low-cost, high-performance products to the market.”
Last May, an experimental reusable spacecraft returned to China after spending 276 days in orbit, which was described by state media as a “major breakthrough in reusable spacecraft technology research.”
The technology for recovering the most expensive rocket parts at sea could be applied to future Chinese rocket models, which would lower the cost of space exploration.
Other companies like the American SpaceX have developed recoverable parts in recent years.
Source – EFE