China’s private rocket company, LandSpace, has achieved a significant milestone in the country’s space industry with the successful vertical recovery test of its Zhuque-3 reusable rocket. The test, conducted at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, validated key components necessary for reusable rocket technology. This achievement paves the way for the maiden flight of China’s first stainless steel liquid carrier rocket and ushers in a new era of cost-efficient and environmentally friendly space exploration.
The Zhuque-3 rocket, developed by LandSpace, is notable for its use of liquid oxygen-methane as propellant. This fuel choice is gaining attention in the space industry due to its efficiency and reduced environmental impact. With a diameter of 4.5 meters, Zhuque-3’s first stage is designed for at least 20 reuses, aligning with the global trend towards sustainable space technology.
The rocket’s storage tank, made from high-strength stainless steel, not only ensures durability but also significantly lowers launch costs. It is estimated that using Zhuque-3 could reduce launch expenses by 80 to 90 percent compared to traditional single-use rockets. This cost reduction is crucial for making space access more affordable and frequent.
Zhuque-3’s predecessor, Zhuque-2, made headlines as the world’s first liquid oxygen-methane rocket to reach orbit, highlighting China’s commitment to pioneering low-cost liquid propellants for launch vehicles.
Zhang Changwu, CEO of LandSpace, emphasizes the advantages of the stainless steel rocket body. Its resistance to high temperatures and durability make it capable of multiple returns and reuses, similar to the efficiency seen in commercial aviation. Notably, the first-stage engine of Zhuque-3 can be inspected and refueled without detaching it from the rocket after recovery, streamlining the turnaround process for subsequent launches.
The success of Zhuque-3’s vertical recovery test is not only a milestone for LandSpace but also a significant advancement for the global space industry’s pursuit of sustainable and cost-effective space travel. As private companies and national agencies continue to push the boundaries of space exploration, innovations like those demonstrated by Zhuque-3 will play a crucial role in shaping the future of humanity’s ventures beyond Earth.