LandSpace tests methane rocket engine

(20 May 2019) LandSpace, a private startup in Beijing, announced that its TQ-12 methane rocket engine successfully underwent a 20-second trial run at the company's test facility in Huzhou, Zhejiang province. It is the world's third high-performance methane engine after SpaceX's Raptor and Blue Origin's BE-4.

The engines use liquid methane as a fuel and liquid oxygen as an oxidiser. They are reusable and are central to the development of reusable launch vehicles. SpaceX and Blue Origin, both space giants in the US, have allocated considerable resources to the research and development of such engines.

LandSpace conducted four trial runs of the TQ-12 last week and all were successful, the company said in a statement.

With a maximum thrust of 80 metric tons [785 kN], the engine can be used on all types of rockets and features good profitability, according to the statement, quoting Ge Minghe, the company's head of research and development.

Zhang Changwu, founder and CEO of LandSpace, said that mass production of the TQ-12 engine and the ZQ 2 rocket, which will be the first to use the new engine, will begin later this year at the company's plant in Huzhou. The plant is the first privately owned rocket factory in China and the largest of its kind in Asia.

The Huzhou facility will be able to produce about 15 ZQ 2 rockets and 200 TQ-12 engines starting in 2022, Zhang said, adding that the first flight of the ZQ 2 is set for 2020.

LandSpace launched its first rocket - the 19-meter, solid-fuel ZQ 1 - in late October at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China to place a minisatellite into orbit. The mission failed because of technical malfunctions during the flight.

Zhang said the company is now focusing on the development of the ZQ 2, calling it "the largest and most powerful rocket to be designed and built by a Chinese private rocket company."

The 48.8-meter ZQ 2 will have a diameter of 3.35 meters, the same as most of China's Chang Zheng rocket series, and a lift-off mass of 216 metric tons. It will be capable of placing a 1.8-ton payload into a sun-synchronous orbit 500 kilometers above the Earth or a 4-ton spacecraft into a low-Earth orbit with an altitude of 200 kilometers, according to LandSpace.

Reference: China Daily