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Chinese methane-powered rocket launches satellites into orbit

Beijing, Dec 9 (Prensa Latina) A rocket developed by Chinese private space technology startup LandSpace Technology launched three satellites into orbit on Friday.

The launch vehicle was powered by a mixture of methane and liquid oxygen. The use of methane in commercial launches could help slash costs and make it easier to reuse rockets.

The Zhuque-2 Y-3 mission took off at 5.09 PM on Friday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the country’s Inner Mongolia region.

The Zhuque-2 rocket was launched previous in July without satellites. The launch at the time made LandSpace the first company in the world to launch a methane-liquid oxygen rocket. The mission carried two 5-kilogram test satellites developed by Chinese startup Spacety.

LandSpace, in a statement, said these two successful launches prove that Zhuque-2 is ready for commercial launches. Currently, the rocket can carry a payload of up to 1.5 metric tons into a 500-kilometre-orbit. The company plans to increase that number to 4 tons in future upgraded versions.

The future Zhuque-3 rocket would use stainless steel propellant tanks and clusters of methane-liquid oxygen propellant engines, according to SpaceNews.

The upcoming two-stage launch vehicle will have a payload capacity of 20 metric tons to low-Earth orbit when expendable. In reusable mode, the launch vehicle will have 16.5 tons of capacity if the first stage is recovered downrange or 11 tons if it has to land back at the launch site.