BEIJING (Reuters) – A private Chinese company on Wednesday launched the world’s first methane-liquid oxygen rocket into orbit, beating US rivals by what could send the next generation of launchers into space.
The Zhuque-2 launch vehicle lifted off at 9 a.m. (0100 GMT) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China and completed its flight as planned, state media reported.
It was the second attempt by Beijing-based LandSpace, one of the first companies in China’s commercial launch industry, to launch the Zhuque-2. A first attempt in December failed.
Wednesday’s launch gave China an edge over US rivals, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, in the race to launch launch vehicles powered by methane, which is considered less polluting, safer, cheaper and a suitable propellant in a reusable rocket.
LandSpace also became the second private Chinese company to launch a liquid-propellant rocket.
In April, Beijing Tianbing Technology successfully launched a kerosene-oxygen rocket, another step towards developing rockets that can be refueled and reused.
Chinese commercial space companies have stormed into the industry since 2014, when the government allowed private investment in the industry. LandSpace was one of the first and best-funded participants.
(Reporting by Ryan Woo; Editing by Robert Birsel)