Rockets of Today

LANDSPACE (Zhūquè, 朱雀) — China, 2022?

LandSpace Technology Corporation was already described in the article on Chinese military-derived solid rockets, as their first rocket was in this category. That rocket may have been based on the booster of a DF-26 or DF-21 missile. It was small, with about the capacity of an Electron. They built exactly one such rocket, and launched it in 2018. It climbed most of the way to orbit, but the third stage didn’t perform correctly and it fell back. Then they apparently ran out of money or something, and the company that built the military solid rocket motors declined to sell them another one. I was ready to write them off.

But then they got new funding. And since, like every other solid-rocket startup, they’d already announced plans to later build a midsize liquid-fueled rocket, they jumped immediately into that project. It would be called the LandSpace-2 in English, or Zhuque-2 in Chinese. (Zhūquè / 朱雀 means “vermilion bird”, and traditionally refers to a section of the zodiac roughly corresponding to Cancer and Leo, with parts of nearby constellations, which is symbolically associated with fire.) And apparently they actually managed to build it.

The company was only founded in 2016, by a young MBA named Zhang Changwu. So they do seem to know how to move forward quickly. The company’s actual name is Lán Jiàn Kōngjiān Kējì (蓝箭空间科技), which translates as Blue Arrow Space Technology, so in Chinese neither the company nor the rocket has “land” in its name. There isn’t a lot of info available out there, and the company’s website is in Chinese only, but I think I xan gather some facts and figures from it.

The LandSpace-2 is a two-stage rocket fueled with liquid methane. The bottom has four gas generator engines, and the upper stage has one engine, plus a small vernier engine for steering. The main engine is called TQ-12 (for Tiānquè / 天鹊, which means skylark), and the second stage version of course has an enlarged bell. The vernier is called TQ-11 and has about a tenth as much thrust; its bell is about a foot across. They’ve been testing these engines since 2019, and apparently now have a set of stages more or less assembled, and a new launch complex for it at Jiuquan, China’s original spaceport in the Gobi Desert. It might actually launch this year.

LandSpace-2: Mass 216 t, diam 3.35 m, thrust 2680 kN, imp 3.4 km/s, type Gm, payload 4 t? (1.8%), cost unknown.