China sent the Zhuque-2 rocket into space on Wednesday, December 14. The rocket was made by Beijing Blue Arrow Space Technology Co., Ltd, or Blue Arrow Space. As Zhuque-2 could not get into orbit, the 14 satellites it carried along were also lost.
Zhuque-2 is the world’s first attempt to launch a rocket powered by methane. On Wednesday, at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China’s Gobi Desert, several commercial satellites were launched into sun-synchronous orbit.
However, as the second-stage thrusters of the rocket seemed to stop working, all of the satellites were lost.
Usually, Beijing would announce right away after a successful orbit. But until press time, China’s space agency hasn’t said anything about the launch yet.
A video posted on Twitter shows that after the launch, there was a problem with the second-stage booster that kept Zhuque-2 from going fast enough to reach orbital speed.
According to reports, the rocket’s first stage performed well for 5 minutes before malfunctioning and failing to reach its intended speed and altitude. The second stage’s main engine shut down and the payload fairing detached in mid-flight.
At the end of 2014, China opened a part of the space domain to private funding. This resulted in the creation of hundreds of companies launching, operating and producing satellites, ground stations and spin-off applications. Blue Arrow Aerospace is also a private space company.
China’s “military-civilian fusion” plan grants sensitive dual-use technologies to private companies. Before manufacturing its commercial methane rocket engine, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation did research on methane and liquid oxygen engines.