China on Thursday morning launched a rocket developed by a Chinese private company from a launch center in northwest China.
Once dominated by state research agencies and the military, China allowed private companies to enter the space industry to build and launch satellites in 2014. - SpaceX, the first in the United States. "We are the first in China".
The firm is also developing another type of rocket, the M-series, to compete in the growing microsatellite sector.
It's still a long way from matching the feats of SpaceX, which regularly launches big rockets that put satellites in orbit and then return to Earth.
Another Chinese start-up, iSpace, launched a suborbital rocket, the Hyperbola-1S, from a test field in the southern island of Hainan last month.
The company is aiming to provide launches for prices lower than US$10,000 per kilogram, claiming to save mass and fuel requirements with lighter electronics and other innovations.
Xin Zhang, a professor of aerospace engineering at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said he doubted the rocket is entirely OneSpace's own work.
Shu says the rocket only took three years to develop and build.
"I think it's hard unless they cut corners", he said.
The event has drawn comparisons in both Chinese and Western media between OneSpace and the early days of SpaceX, a U.S. startup founded in 2002 that has revolutionised the launch industry with low costs, iterative design processes, pioneering vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) capabilities and subsequent first-stage reusability with its Falcon 9 orbital launch vehicle.
The rocket generates its power from a solid fuel engine developed by OneSpace and the control systems are customisable in accordance with user demand, as revealed by the company's chairman, Ma Chao to a newspaper.
Its ultimate goal is to make space accessible to ordinary people, according to Shu.
"Many compare us to SpaceX but to be honest, the gap is more than a little", the CEO said.
The rocket reached an altitude of 108 kilometres and served as a demonstration for its planned small launcher due to be completed by June 2019, the company's website said.
The name of the first rocket - Chongqing Liangjiang Star - taken from the company's manufacturing base in the Chongqing Liangjiang New Area, an economic zone named for where the two rivers, Yangtze and Jialing, meet. "So this launch is crucial to everything - capital investment, media attention and the government's support".
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