Chinese rocket company suffers third consecutive launch failure

HELSINKI — An orbital launch attempt by Chinese startup iSpace failed early Friday, after two failures last year.

The fourth Hyperbola-1, a four-stage solid rocket, was launched at 03:09 AM on May 13 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert.

Apparent launch film material appeared on a Chinese social media site shortly after the launch, but there was a period of silence, well past the time when a similar launch could have been declared successful.

The outage was confirmed four hours after launch by Chinese state media Xinhua. Teams investigate the specific reasons for the failure.

The mission was the 16th orbital launch attempt from China in 2022. It was the first launch that did not rely on a Long March rocket and the first failure.

The loss of what would be expected to be a new remote sensing satellite to a commercial satellite developer and operator will be a blow to iSpace’s plans.

Beijing-based iSpace became the first Chinese company outside the traditional state-owned space sector to successfully launch a satellite into orbit. july 2019† The company suffered two consecutive failures in February and August from last year though.

The company is also developing the much more complex hyperbole-2, a larger, methane-liquid oxygen launcher with a reusable first stage. It received $173 million in funding in August 2020 to boost its development.

Vertical take-off, vertical landing (VTVL) testing was scheduled for 2021 after progress with to test of the methalox engines and software, grid fins and landing leg implementation, but updates have been scarce in recent months.

The Hyperbola-2 is likely to use the same new launch infrastructure recently built in Jiuquan to Zhuque-2, another methalox launch vehicle developed by rival Landspace. That rocket could make its first launch attempt in the near future.

Landspace and iSpace will face competition in liquid and reusable launch services from rivals, including: Galactic energyDeep blue space travelSpace Pioneer and the resurrection Link space

Chinese Solid Launcher Efforts

Hyperbola-1 is one of a wave of new Chinese light-lift solid launchers to boost the country’s overall space capabilities, but the record so far is patchy.

While the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the country’s leading space contractor, is successfully operating the Long March 11 from inland and a sea ​​platformKuaizhou-1A and Kuaizhou-11 missiles developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) and its subsidiaries remain grounded after failures in 2021 respectively 2020.

Landspace dropped its plans to use the Zhuque-1 solid rocket after its single launch and failure in 2018, while OneSpace has not attempted another orbital launch since its lone attempt in 2019.

Galactic Energy, founded after the early commercial movers mentioned above, has succeeded with: both launches its Ceres-1 rocket and plans a third around July. CAS Space, a spin-off of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), is preparing for its first mission, using the ZK-1A designed to carry up to 2 tons of payload to LEO, which is the largest solid rocket of China would be when it is lifted off in June or July. CASC spin-off China Rocket has launched one Jielong-1 (“Smart Dragon”) rocket and plans to launch the larger Jielong-3 in the second half of the year.

Chinese Commercial Space Development

The Chinese government has sought to promote commercial space ecosystems outside the CASC-dominated state sector through incentives, policy support and a national military-civilian fusion technology transfer strategy. The moves are seen as a response to the earlier rise of commercial space activities in the US in the form of SpaceX and others. The latest failure puts pressure on upcoming launches to achieve success.

A policy shift in 2014 opened up parts of the space sector to private capital, with major financing rounds is now becoming more common.

Policy frameworks, support for new infrastructures including “satellite internet” and towns and other areas seeking to attract innovative, high-end technology aerospace companies to fuel growth have supported the emergence and growth of hundreds of space-related companies in launch, satellite and downstream application areas, and saw the formation of a number of aerospace industries clusters and pilot zones in China.

Previous Report indicates that China sees a role for such companies in setting up a mega-constellation and performance for low-Earth orbit communications commercial missions to and from the Chinese space station Tiangong.

CASC and subsidiaries of its sister defense giant CASIC recently unveiled the mass production of small satellites opportunitieswith a capacity to produce hundreds of satellites per year.

For now, though, China will see which of the new hopeful launch service providers can deliver reliability.

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