The world’s first methane-fueled rocket launched to orbit has failed to achieve its goal.
The Zhuque-2 rocket, developed by Beijing-based company Landspace, lifted off on Wednesday (December 14) for the first-ever orbital mission of a methane-fueled launcher and the first lift-off in China of a commercially developed liquid-fuel rocket. Despite high hopes for the historic mission, Zhuque-2 appears to have failed to reach orbit and lost the 14 satellites it was carrying.
The launch took place on Wednesday at 3:30 EST (08:30 GMT) at China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert and was intended to place a variety of commercial satellites into sun-synchronous orbit. According to reports, however, the rocket’s second stage failed, causing the mission to fail and all satellites to be lost.
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The Chinese space agency has not yet released an official statement on the launch. However, footage that appeared on Twitter after the launch seems to suggest that an anomaly occurred in the second stage of the rocket that prevented Zhuque-2 from reaching orbital speed.
Snapshots taken from coverage of the Chinese launch appear to show that the rocket’s first stage is functioning well, but that a severe loss of altitude and speed occurred about five minutes into the flight.
Another snapshot shows that Zhuque-2 was losing altitude and speed after SECO at ~T+300s. It’s not a perfect ending, but it still deserves our praise. Space is tough and we hope to see the return of #ZQ2 soon. pic.twitter.com/wkkt6Fzya1December 14, 2022
Landspace is already working on a second Zhuque-2 rocket, according to SpaceNews (opens in a new tab)but it is not yet known when another launch attempt will be made.
Despite the failure of Zhuque-2, the mission continues to demonstrate the rapid progress made by China’s space program, both in terms of domestic and commercial capabilities. China is approaching 60 successful launches under its belt for 2022 and Recently completed its T-shaped Tiangong space station.
China’s private space companies have also made progress this year, as more launch suppliers have begun putting payloads into orbit on behalf of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).
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