Chinese launch company Space Pioneer is all set for its first attempt to reach orbit, according to a photo from the country’s Jiuquan spaceport.
Space Pioneer’s Tianlong 2 rocket, which can translate (opens in new tab)to “heavenly dragon,” is nearing its first launch and is set to lift off before the end of March, according to a recent report (opens in new tab).
The expendable, three-stage Tianlong 2 uses a kerosene and liquid oxygen propellant mix. If the launch is successful, it will make Space Pioneer the first Chinese commercial firm to reach orbit with a liquid propellant rocket.
Tianlong-2 of Space Pioneer at JSLC via weibo Polis城邦工作室 pic.twitter.com/Mi5gU6TF80March 16, 2023
Another company, Landspace, almost achieved this late last year with its methane-liquid oxygen Zhuque 2 (Vermillion Bird 2) rocket.
Tianlong 2 is designed to lift 4,400 pounds (2,000 kilograms) to low Earth orbit or 3,300 lbs. (1,500 kg) to a 310-mile-altitude (500 kilometers) sun-synchronous orbit. The company has yet to announce a date for the launch.
Space Pioneer is also developing a larger Tianlong 3 rocket it hopes can compete to launch stacks of satellites for China’s plans for a communications megaconstellation. The national project seeks to rival SpaceX’s constellation of Starlink satellites.
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Commercial launch companies began emerging in China in 2014 after a central government decision to open parts of the space sector to private capital.
A handful of companies, namely iSpace, Galactic Energy, Expace and CAS Space, have so far reached orbit with solid rockets. The latter pair are spinoffs from giant state-owned enterprises already engaged in China’s space and defense sectors.