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China technology

China’s first private rocket mission to outer space ends in failure

  • Landspace Tech’s ZQ-1 took off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre at 4pm on Saturday carrying a small satellite for state broadcaster CCTV
  • Mission failed due to problem with rocket’s third stage, company says
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 October, 2018, 5:24pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 October, 2018, 11:36pm

A technology firm has failed in its attempt to become the first privately owned company in China to send a rocket into outer space.

The three-stage ZQ-1, developed by Beijing-based Landspace Tech, took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region at 4pm on Saturday, the company said on the social media platform WeChat.

Clear skies meant that spectators were able to see the first and second stages of the rocket separate as planned within the first five minutes of its flight, news portal Zjol.com.cn reported.

But at 6.40pm, something went wrong with the third stage and the rocket’s mission to put a small satellite into sun-synchronous orbit for state broadcaster CCTV was deemed to have failed.

“This final result is not perfect, but we have achieved some of our goals, especially the key steps like the rocket’s stages and cowling separation,” a spokesman told a press conference at the launch site.

“We will analyse the information from remote sensing records and try to find out what went wrong,” the person said.

“Technologically speaking, there are some shortcomings [with the launch],” the company’s chief executive Zhang Changwu said. “But our team feel very encouraged.”

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The failure of Saturday’s attempt would not interfere with the company’s next mission, which is set to take place in 2020, Global Times reported.

While Landspace is not the only private company in China with celestial ambitions, it was hoping with its 19 metre (62 feet) tall ZQ-1 to become the first to send a rocket into outer space. Last month, two other privately owned firms, iSpace and One Space, successfully launched suborbital rockets.

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China’s aerospace industry has traditionally been the domain of state-owned institutes and enterprises, but a huge amount of investment has poured into the private sector since 2015 when Beijing announced a national strategy to integrate military and civilian businesses.

Landspace was established in Beijing the same year and now also has a manufacturing base in Huzhou, east China’s Zhejiang province.

The company was in the spotlight last month after reports emerged it had poached a rocket scientist from a state-run aerospace institute with the promise of a bigger salary.