China’s answer to SpaceX fails maiden voyage
China has been trying to join the independent space race – kick-started by Blue Origin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic – since 2012, when President Xi Jinping declared that becoming a space flight superpower would be a priority for the country. Since then, dozens of private spacefaring companies have popped up in China, such as ExPace, LinkSpace, OneSpace, and LandSpace.
The latter’s privately developed rocket, named Zhuque-1 after the ancient Chinese spirit of fire, was set to launch on its maiden voyage last Saturday. The rocket launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Mongolia, and was supposed to carry the satellite “Future” into orbit.
Zhuque-1 would have been the first private rocket to launch a satellite into orbit in China. That is, if it had worked.
The rocket was designed to launch in three stages, and while the first two firings went smoothly, an issue in the final stage meant the rocket never reached the low earth orbit it was aiming for. Since the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre is in the Gobi Desert, no threat was posed to people by the rocket’s failure. Only the company’s dreams of space superpower-dom were harmed.
The company’s next attempt at conquering the cosmos will come in 2020, with the launch of their other rocket Zhuque-2.
None of China’s 60-some private space companies have yet seen the success of Western companies like SpaceX or its many competitors, and the failure of the Zhuque-1 shows that they are still some distance from space supremacy. But recent times haven’t held only bad news.
Last Thursday, China’s Shanghai ManWei Technology successfully launched the world’s first gene bank into orbit, carrying the genetic material of eight Chinese citizens into space, where it will be stored for thousands of years . In the light of America’s plans to sell the ISS and cut NASA funding, perhaps China’s private companies’ dreams will be realized after all.
Photo Credit: LandSpace