ZhuQue-2 Embarks on Third Flight

On Friday, December 8, LandSpace successfully launched its third ZhuQue-2 rocket from Launch Site 96 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China. This launch marked another milestone for the Chinese private company, as it became the first company in the world to reach orbit with a methane-based rocket platform. The ZhuQue-2 rocket, also known as Redbird 2, is a medium-sized launch vehicle developed by LandSpace.

Standing at 49.5 meters tall with a diameter of 3.35 meters, the ZhuQue-2 rocket has the capacity to carry up to 1.5 tons to a 500km Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO), with future upgrades increasing its capability to up to 4 tons. The first stage of the rocket is powered by four TQ-12 liquid methane engines, which run on a gas generator cycle. These engines, referred to as a TQ-13 first-stage engine pack, produce a thrust of 2,680 kN at liftoff.

The development of these engines has been rapid, with the first complete test firing taking place in May 2019 after just a few years of development. LandSpace aims to produce up to 15 ZhuQue-2 rockets per year, highlighting their ambition for rapid production.

The second stage of the ZhuQue-2 rocket also features a TQ-12 engine, assisted by four TQ-11 vernier engines. These vernier engines perform the final orbital insertion of the payload after the main engine shuts down. LandSpace had initially planned to debut the TQ-15A engine module on the third flight of the rocket, eliminating the need for vernier engines. However, this change seems to be planned for future flights.

The third flight of ZhuQue-2 was used to further prove the reliability of the rocket. According to Zhang Changwu, CEO of LandSpace, this launch is a step towards mass production, with the company aiming to have up to four flights of ZhuQue-2 in 2024 and up to 15 flights per year in the future. Flight 3 featured some improvements based on the learning experiences from the first two flights, including process optimizations and adjustments to enhance the reliability and safety of the rocket.

While LandSpace has not announced a timeline for the development of their next rocket, the ZhuQue-3, they plan to create a reusable stainless steel rocket capable of launching 20 tons of payload in an expendable configuration and 16.5 tons when landing on a barge. The company has demonstrated its ability to achieve rapid rocket development in the past, and the ZhuQue-3 represents another step forward in their ambitious plans.

To wrap it up, LandSpace’s successful launch of the ZhuQue-2 rocket on its third flight marks another achievement for the Chinese private company. With its methane-based rocket platform and plans for future upgrades and developments, LandSpace is making significant strides in the space industry.