HELSINKI — An orbital launch attempt by Chinese startup iSpace failed early Friday after two failures last year.
The fourth Hyperbola-1, a four-stage solid-fuel rocket, lifted off at 3:09 am EST on May 13 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert.
Obvious start Recordings appeared on a Chinese social media site shortly after launch, but a period of silence followed, well beyond the point at which a similar launch could be declared successful.
The failure was confirmed by Chinese state media Xinhua four hours after launch. The teams examine the specific reasons for the failure.
Apparent launch of iSpace’s fourth solid fuel rocket Hyperbola-1 in Jiuquan minutes ago. https://t.co/GAJpAgkWnz pic.twitter.com/lYZEIwCUCe
—Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) May 13, 2022
The mission was the 16th orbital launch attempt from China in 2022. It was the first launch not based on a Long March rocket and the first failure.
The loss of an anticipated new remote sensing satellite to a commercial satellite developer and operator will deal a blow to iSpace’s plans.
Beijing-based iSpace was the first Chinese company outside of the state’s traditional space sector to successfully launch a satellite July 2019. The firm suffered two consecutive failures in February and August of the last year, however.
The company is also developing the much more complex Hyperbola-2, a larger methane-liquid oxygen launcher with a reusable first stage. It secured $173 million in funding in August 2020 to fuel its development.
Vertical Takeoff and Vertical Landing (VTVL) tests were scheduled for 2021 following progress testing of Metalox engines and software, grid fins and landing leg Deployment, but updates have been sparse in recent months.
The Hyperbola-2 will likely use the same new launch infrastructure recently built at Jiuquan to facilitate launch Zhuque-2, another Methalox launcher developed by rival Landspace. This rocket could make its first launch attempt in the near future.
Landspace and iSpace will compete in fluid and reusable launch services with rivals including Galactic Energy, Deep blue aerospace, space pioneer and the reappearance link room.
Chinese Solid Launcher effort
Hyperbola-1 belongs to a wave of new Chinese light lifts Solid launchers for boosting the country’s total space capabilities, but the record so far is patchy.
While China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the country’s key space entrepreneur, is successfully operating the Long March 11 from inland locations and a sea platformKuaizhou-1A and Kuaizhou-11 Rockets developed by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) and its subsidiaries remain grounded after failures 2021 or 2020.
Landspace dropped its plans to operate the Zhuque-1 solid fuel rocket after its single launch and Mistake in 2018 while OneSpace has not attempted another orbital launch since its only attempt in 2019.
Galactic Energy, formed after the early commercial risers mentioned above, thrived both launches its Ceres 1 rocket and plans a third around July. CAS Space, a spin-off from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), is preparing for its first mission, with the ZK-1A, designed to carry up to 2 tons of payload to LEO, which will depart China after liftoff largest solid fuel rocket would be from June or July. CASC spin-off China Rocket has launched a Jielong-1 (“Smart Dragon”) rocket and plans to launch the larger Jielong-3 in the second half of the year.
Development of commercial space in China
The Chinese government has sought to boost commercial space ecosystems beyond the CASC-dominated state sector through incentives, policy support and a national strategy for military-civilian fusion technology transfer. The moves are seen as a response to the earlier rise of commercial space activity in the US in the form of SpaceX and others. The recent failure is increasing the pressure on forthcoming launches to succeed.
A policy change in 2014 opened parts of the space sector to private capital large financing rounds now more and more often.
Policy framework, support for new infrastructures including “satellite internet” and cities and other areas trying to attract innovative high-end technology space companies to boost growth, has supported the emergence and growth of hundreds of space-related companies in areas related to launch, satellites and downstream applications, and the formation of a number seen by aerospace industries clusters and pilot zones in China.
Previous Reporting shows that China sees a role for such companies in building and operating a communications megaconstellation in low-Earth orbit commercial missions to and from the Chinese space station Tiangong.
CASC and subsidiaries of its sister defense giant CASIC recently unveiled the mass production of small satellites Skillswith a capacity to manufacture hundreds of satellites per year.
For now, however, China will look at which of the new hopefuls of launch service providers can offer reliability.