China has made its first step toward opening up the country’s private sector for commercial space flights. Earlier this week, the Chinese company OneSpace Technologies performed the first private rocket launch in the country’s history, CNN reports.
The Beijing-based startup company deployed its OS-X rocket from an undisclosed platform in northwest China on May 17, at 07:33 Beijing time, notes GB Times.
The OS-X rocket, named “Chongqing Liangjiang Star,” is a suborbital single-stage rocket that measures 30 feet (nine meters) in length and weighs more than 15,800 pounds (7,200 kg).
On its maiden flight, which lasted for 265 seconds, the OS-X soared to an altitude of 25 miles (40 kilometers) and covered a distance of around 170 miles (273 km) from the launch pad, after which it successfully touched down in a designated area.
This is the first-ever rocket to be launched separately from the Chinese government’s space agency, the China National Space Administration, states The Verge. Its primary target is to conduct tests and research during suborbital flights, as part of a scientific collaboration between OneSpace and the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China.
“This is the first rocket developed and built entirely with homegrown technology,” Shu Chang, OneSpace CEO, told CNNMoney in advance of Thursday’s launch.
The pioneering Chinese private space company was founded in 2015 and, according to Shu, is now being compared with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
“OneSpace’s situation right now is very much like where SpaceX stood in its early years. SpaceX is the first in the US. We’re the first in China.”
The company’s end goal is to provide a spaceflight service that will cost less than $10,000 per kilogram of cargo. To do so, OneSpace has done everything to set a “low-cost goal from the very start.”
According to CNN, the Chinese private space company has outfitted its rocket with a custom-made electrical system that is 10 times lighter than the one customarily used on other rockets. This will help OneSpace save both mass and fuel requirements, notes GB Times.
Going further, the company plans to conduct a test launch for an orbital rocket as well, which is named OS-M1 and is expected to take off on its maiden flight by the end of 2018.
Unlike SpaceX, which can take on big payloads with its Falcon 9 rocket, the Chinese private rocket company will be targeting small satellite launches.
CNN reports that OneSpace’s next goal is to assemble a line of rockets, which are estimated to be ready later this year. With this rocket fleet, the company plans to meet the continuously growing demand for mini-satellite launches — just like the Longjiang twin satellites that China will be launching later today.