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China's iSpace Conducts Reusable Rocket Hop Test

China's iSpace, a Beijing-based launch startup, has achieved a successful launch and landing of its Hyperbola-2Y methane-liquid oxygen reusable verification stage.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Tue Dec 12 2023Written by Zac Aubert

China's iSpace, a Beijing-based launch startup, has achieved a successful launch and landing of its Hyperbola-2Y methane-liquid oxygen reusable verification stage. The test took place on December 10 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, marking a major milestone for the company's ambitious space exploration goals.


The Hyperbola-2Y lifted off from the launch pad at 4:07 am Eastern (1107 UTC) and reached an altitude of 343.12 meters. 

After a precise descent, the rocket touched down with a velocity of 1.1 meters per second and an accuracy of 0.295 meters at a designated landing zone.

The entire flight, as reported in a statement by iSpace, lasted 63.15 seconds.

This achievement follows a successful first hop test conducted on November 2, where the Hyperbola-2Y reached an altitude of 178 meters before returning to its landing spot.

iSpace plans to conduct a sea test next year after completing essential ground tests.

The recent flight provided valuable flight data and served as a crucial step in the ongoing development of the Hyperbola-3 reusable launch vehicle.

iSpace aims to conduct the first flight of the Hyperbola-3, a 13.4-metric-ton rocket to low Earth orbit (LEO), in 2025.

The company plans to demonstrate the recovery and reuse of the first stage in 2026, with the capability to lift 8.5 tons to LEO in reusable mode. 

iSpace aspires to conduct 25 Hyperbola-3 launches annually by 2030.

The successful tests by iSpace come years after several Chinese commercial firms announced plans to develop reusable first stages for launchers.

Landspace, another Beijing-based competitor, is gearing up for its first hop test at Jiuquan by the end of the year. Landspace is developing the two-stage methalox Zhuque-3, with plans for its first flight in 2025.

Galactic Energy, based in China, conducted a hop test in August for the Pallas-1 kerosene-liquid oxygen reusable launcher. The company plans its first expendable flight in the third quarter of 2024.

CAS Space, a spin-off from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has also conducted hop tests to verify algorithms for vertical takeoff and vertical landing (VTVL) rockets.

Deep Blue Aerospace, based in Jiangsu, is planning the first flight of its Nebula-1 kerolox rocket in 2024.

Space Pioneer, the first Chinese commercial startup to reach orbit with a liquid propellant rocket, is gearing up for the launch of its Tianlong-3 rocket in June 2024, with plans for a reusable first stage comparable to Falcon 9.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the state-owned main space contractor, is also actively pursuing reusable rockets. CASC aims to develop a new-generation human-rated launcher for lunar crewed missions and an evolving Long March 9 super heavy-lift launcher. Additionally, CASC is considering a reusable air-launched rocket and is developing a two-stage spaceplane concept.

The space industry in China is ramping up with rapid advancements in reusable rocket technology, with multiple companies and government entities contributing to the nation's ambitious goals in space exploration.