September 18, 2021

The attempted launch of a Chinese private rocket is shrouded in mystery

2 min read

Chinese private enterprise iSpace launched a Hyperbola-1 solid rocket, but the mission’s fate remained unknown for hours after liftoff. On August 3, the four-stage Hyperbola-1 solid rocket launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center located in Gobi Desert at 3:50 a.m. Eastern. The launch was hinted at in advance by airspace closure alerts. The early removal of the amateur video from Sina Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, was the first indicator of a problem with the launch.

Within an hour of launch, a flawless deployment to the sun-synchronous orbit would be reported. By 8:00 a.m. Eastern, neither Chinese official media nor the firm had released a statement on the situation. The satellite “did not reach orbit as scheduled,” according to Chinese state media.

The payload fairing had not succeeded to split properly, preventing the solitary satellite from reaching its intended orbit the next day, according to iSpace. While the staging and rocket worked smoothly, the spacecraft could not reach orbital velocity due to a problem. This is iSpace’s second failure in a row. It is one of China’s first and most well-funded commercial launch businesses. Last year, the firm received $173 million in the Series B financing round for the new launcher series. However, the scheduled initial public offering (IPO) has not taken place.

In July 2019, the very first Hyperbola-1 rocket launched a satellite into orbit, becoming iSpace the first commercial Chinese launch business to do so. The second launch, which took place in February of this year, was a flop. The cause of the mission’s loss was promptly identified as falling foam insulation. The first and the second Hyperbola-1 rockets appear to have undergone major design changes between the two launches.

In the midst of the loss, Beijing-based iSpace is working on hop testing for the recyclable Hyperbola-2 launch vehicle using a test stage. iSpace ran long adjustable thrust hot fire assessments on their Jiaodian-1 engine in April.

Late last month, the company conducted trials on the grid fins for the rocket. The 3.35-meter-diameter, 28-meter-tall liquid Hyperbola-2 is expected to carry more than 1,100 kilograms of payload into the 500-kilometre Sun-synchronous orbit, or 800 kilos if the first stage is recovered and reused. A larger Hyperbola-3 series, which includes designs for the asymmetrical launcher variant, has recently moved from concept to model development.

A second failure might have serious ramifications in China’s young but congested light solid rocket launch sector. In November, Galactic Energy also became the first, second Chinese business to transport a payload into orbit. It is currently planning for two Ceres-1 solid rocket launches in the coming months, putting it in a situation to show reliability.

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