LandSpace, a leading private rocket maker in China, will soon carry out the second launch of its ZQ 2, the world's first methane-propelled carrier rocket, at a launch facility in the Gobi Desert.
The rocket was transported to its service tower at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China on Thursday, and would go through final function checks, LandSpace said on Friday, noting the launch mission will take place in coming days.
The maiden flight of the ZQ 2 model happened in December at the Jiuquan center. The rocket successfully crossed the Karman Line, the globally recognized boundary between Earth's atmosphere and the edge of space, but malfunctioned in its second stage and failed to reach orbit.
The Chinese model has been in a close race with Relativity Space's Terran 1 and SpaceX's Starship to be the first methane-based rocket in orbit.
According to LandSpace, the 49.5-meter ZQ 2 has a diameter of 3.35 meters — the same as those of most of China's Long March-series rockets, a liftoff weight of 219 metric tons and a launch thrust of 268 tons.
The vehicle will be capable of placing a 4-ton satellite into a typical sun-synchronous orbit about 500 kilometers above the Earth, or a 6-ton satellite to a low-Earth orbit with an altitude of 200 km.
The rocket's main propulsion system — TQ-12 — is the first methane engine in China. Before LandSpace, only a handful of US companies had developed such engine.
Compared with traditional types of rocket engines that can function only once, a methane engine is reusable and more environmentally friendly.
LandSpace is making the ZQ 2 and its engines at its plant in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, the first privately owned carrier rocket factory in China and the largest of its kind in Asia.