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New Delhi, July 12 – China on Wednesday became the first country to successfully launch a new methane-powered carrier rocket into space, beating Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Chinese private aerospace company LandSpace’s Zhuque-2 carrier rocket blasted off at 9 a.m. Beijing Time (6.30 a.m. IST) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert in China, and completed the flight mission according to the procedure, Xinhua news agency reported.
This was the second flight mission of the Zhuque-2 carrier rocket, after an unsuccessful launch on December 14, last year.
With the successful launch, LandSpace is now at the forefront for the race to liquid oxygen methane rocket technology.
Methane-powered engines are known for high performance and low operational costs. These are particularly suited for companies aiming for reusable rockets.
Zhuque-2 is the first rocket in the world to successfully deliver a test payload into sun-synchronous orbit (SSO), the South China Morning Post reported.
Earlier this year, two other liquid oxygen methane rockets — the Terran 1 from Relativity Space in the US and SpaceX’s Starship — failed in their maiden attempts to reach orbit.
The Zhuque-2 is a two-stage liquid-propellant carrier rocket, and is 49.5 metres long rocket with a diameter of 3.35 metres, according to China Space News. It has a carrying capacity of six tonnes for low Earth orbit and four tonnes for SSO.
Earlier in April, another Chinese private aerospace company Space Pioneer successfully launched liquid-propelled Tianlong-2.