Next-generation methane rocket to be more powerful

2023-12-11 11:01:14China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

ZQ 3 will be made of stainless steel, with its first stage designed to be reusable

LandSpace, a leading Chinese private space company, has unveiled design details for its ZQ 3 carrier rocket, which the company said will be made primarily of stainless steel.

The Beijing-based rocket maker said the ZQ 3 will be 76.6 meters tall and 4.5 meters wide, and will weigh nearly 660 metric tons when fully fueled.

With a liftoff thrust of 900 tons, it will be able to transport spacecraft with a combined weight of 21.3 tons to a low-Earth orbit.

The rocket will be propelled by LandSpace's own methane engines. The first stage will have nine TQ-12B engines, creating the major lift for the rocket, while the second stage will have a TQ-15B engine.

Compared with traditional types of rocket engines that can function only once, a methane engine is reusable and more environmentally friendly.

LandSpace said the use of methane engines will make the ZQ 3's first stage reusable.

Plans for the new rocket were released by LandSpace's founder and CEO, Zhang Changwu, at a news conference on Saturday at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China.

He said all of the rocket's propellant tanks will be built of stainless steel, which features good strength, resistance to scorching and corrosion, and a very competitive cost.

Zhang said the company plans to carry out a recovery test of the rocket's first stage this month, and intends to make major components for the first prototype next year.

If everything goes according to plan, the first prototype will be assembled in 2025, he said.

On Saturday morning, Land-Space achieved the second successful flight of its ZQ 2 rocket type, marking the world's first satellite deployment by a methanepropelled rocket.

The ZQ 2-Y3 rocket blasted off at 7:39 am from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and deployed three experimental satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 460 kilometers, LandSpace said in a news release.

The Y3 in the rocket's name meant the craft was the third in the ZQ 2 series.

The ZQ 2 is the world's first methane-fueled rocket to reach Earth orbit and also the largest and most powerful private rocket in China.

It made its maiden flight from the Jiuquan center in December last year. 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.

In July, the ZQ 2's second launch took place at Jiuquan and succeeded, marking the first orbital mission of any methane-fueled rocket. It did not carry any satellites.

The ZQ 2 model is 49.5 meters tall and 3.35 meters wide. It has a liftoff weight of 220 tons and a launch thrust of 268 tons.

The rocket is capable of placing satellites with a combined weight of 1.5 tons into a typical sun-synchronous orbit about 500 km above the Earth, LandSpace said.


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