ZhuQue-2 Gears Up for Third Flight as LandSpace Unveils Upgraded Rocket

LandSpace, the Chinese aerospace company that made headlines with its successful launch of the methane-based rocket, ZhuQue-2, is gearing up for its third launch. The company recently rolled out the pathfinder to its pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, indicating an imminent launch in about a month. This comes after the company confirmed the shipment of the third ZQ-2 rocket. Although the payload for the upcoming launch remains unknown, LandSpace is generating excitement among space enthusiasts.

ZhuQue-2 made history on its second flight by becoming the first methane-based rocket to reach orbit successfully. The previous launch in December 2022 encountered a setback when the second stage vernier engines failed due to a hard shutdown of the main engine. However, despite this setback, the rocket still claimed the title of being the first rocket to use methane propellant to reach space, reaching an altitude of 100 kilometers.

The ZhuQue-2 rocket stands at an impressive height of 49.5 meters and has a diameter of 3.35 meters. It has a lifting capacity of 6,000 kilograms to low-Earth orbit (LEO) and 4,000 kilograms to Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). These capabilities make it a powerful and versatile rocket in the Chinese aerospace industry.

Not content with their achievements thus far, LandSpace has plans to expand its launch family with the introduction of ZhuQue-2A/B and C. These rockets will boast a similar infrastructure to ZhuQue-2 but will feature more cores and larger payload fairings. Additionally, LandSpace is exploring reusability for its launcher family and is already testing the reignition of the rocket’s engines on the test stand.

In an exciting development, LandSpace unveiled its upcoming rocket, ZhuQue-3. This rocket will utilize stainless steel propellant tanks and a cluster of the company’s Tianque methane engines. With this design, ZhuQue-3 aims to have a payload capacity of 20 metric tons to LEO in an expendable configuration, 16.5 tons in a downrange reusable configuration, and 11 tons in a return-to-launch site configuration. The rocket will also feature grid fins and deployable landing legs, similar to the design of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The only difference is the structural material, with ZhuQue-3 opting for stainless steel instead of aluminum.

While LandSpace has not disclosed further details about ZhuQue-3, it has emphasized that the rocket is in its early development state. This leaves room for anticipation and speculation as to what this new rocket will bring to the table.

In other space news, China’s Chang Zheng 3 B/E rocket successfully launched the Zhongxing-6E (ChinaSat 6E) mission from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. ChinaSat is a geostationary orbit direct broadcasting constellation aimed at improving communication and providing stable and reliable radio and television transmission. This successful launch marks another milestone for China’s space program.

The Chang Zheng 3 B/E rocket is part of the Chinese launcher family and is primarily used for communications, telecommunications, and experimental satellites to geostationary transfer orbits (GTO) and beyond. It can lift an impressive 5,500 kilograms to GTO, making it one of the most enormous and capable rockets in China’s arsenal.

Another recent launch involved the Chang Zheng 2C rocket, which carried the Haiyang-3 01 payload. This experimental satellite is dedicated to studying the oceans, ocean ecology, and the effects of climate on water biological systems. It specifically targets multiple types of water bodies, including oceans, lakes, and rivers. The successful launch of Haiyang-3 01 represents a significant step forward in China’s oceanographic research capabilities.

Lastly, the Chang Zheng 2D rocket launched three SatNet test satellites to low-Earth orbit. These satellites, known as the “Satellite-Internet Technology Demonstration Satellites,” were built by the Chinese Academy of Science. Experts speculate that they are part of a test phase for a future LEO communication constellation similar to SpaceX’s Starlink.

As the Chinese space program continues to make strides in rocket technology and satellite deployment, the world eagerly awaits the next breakthrough from LandSpace and its ZhuQue rockets. With the upcoming launch of ZhuQue-2 and the unveiling of ZhuQue-3, China’s presence in the space industry is set to expand further, solidifying its position as a key player in the global space race.