China’s attempt to launch a privately developed carrier rocket into space was a failure. According to Reuters, the rocket developed by Beijing-based Landscape failed to reach orbit after lifting off at 4 a.m. Eastern on Saturday, Oct. 27, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The Zhuque-1, or ZQ-1, which was designed to be capable of carrying a satellite into space, was the first three-stage rocket built by a private company in China.
Landscape said in statement posted on its official WeChat account that the spacecraft failed to reach orbit because of an issue with the third stage. It said that the problem with the rocket occurred soon after the second stage separation. The company nonetheless said that it still considers the mission completed. “Before Zhuque carrier rocket was launched, its mission was already completed,” the company said without providing further details.
Landscape was founded in 2015 and aimed to become the first Chinese private company to launch a satellite into orbit. The company claims to be the first private licensed company in China to launch a carrier rocket.
Citing Chinese media, Fox News said that the spacecraft was carrying a satellite named “Future,” which was built for state broadcaster China Central Television. The lost payload was intended to be used for a science outreach series.
It was Landscape’s first attempt to build a rocket, and despite the incident, the company said that it will continue to build rockets. “We still believe that building rockets is the right strategy for the company. We are the first Chinese private company to build a three-stage carrier rocket. That’s already a great achievement,” the company said in a statement, according to China.org. “We will carry on with our dream for the vast space.”
Space News said that the 27-metric ton rocket is 19 meters tall and spans 1.3 meters in diameter. It cost around $14 million to develop and received funding from private sector and partly-state-owned backers.
It may still be a long way to go before private companies in China can compete with space companies in the United States. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, is in fact already setting his eyes on sending a spacecraft to planet Mars. His company has under its belt a number of successful missions to the International Space Station and has successfully reused rockets.
Earlier this year, SpaceX also made history when it launched Musk’s cherry-red Tesla Roadster into space on a course to the asteroid belt.