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China science

China’s space ambitions reiterated with launch of its first rocket developed by private firm

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 3:30pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 9:44pm

China launched its first privately developed rocket from a launch pad in its northwest on Thursday, state media said, in what it called the latest milestone in the country’s ambitious space exploration programme.

Since coming to office in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has made becoming a “space flight superpower” a top priority for his government, which has a goal of sending a permanent manned space station into orbit by around 2022.

The launch of the Chongqing Liangjiang Star rocket, developed by OneSpace Technology, a Beijing-based private firm, marks the first time a non-state Chinese rocket has successfully entered orbit, the official Xinhua news agency said.

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Also known as the OS-XO, the craft can place a 100kg load into orbit 800km from the Earth, according to state media.

The rocket uses energy-saving technology, such as wireless communications instead of wired internet, that by cutting weight has helped lower fuel costs by about 30 per cent, Xinhua said.

Founded in 2015, OneSpace is the result of a government effort to foster China’s commercial space flight sector and encourage private participation in it, according to state media.

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The company expects 10 missions for carrier rockets in 2019, founder Shu Chang told the official China Daily last week.

“I hope we can become one of the biggest small-satellite launchers in the world,” Shu said.

Last year, the company signed a deal with the state-run Chongqing Liangjiang Aviation Industry Investment Group to build a joint research and manufacturing base in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing.

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The base’s strategic location as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative – the policy aimed at developing trade links between China and Eurasia – will provide a large export market for OneSpace, Shu told China Daily.

“We will develop bigger rockets in the future and participate in the global competition,” Shu said.