Coun­try’s first pri­vate rocket roars into sky

China Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO LEI in Yinchuan zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China’s first car­rier rocket de­signed and built by a pri­vate en­ter­prise was launched on Thurs­day morn­ing from a test base in north­west­ern China.

The OS-X sub­or­bital rocket, de­vel­oped and made by OneS­pace Tech­nol­ogy in Bei­jing, blasted off at 7:33 am. It flew 306 sec­onds and trav­eled 273 kilo­me­ters through the at­mos­phere be­fore fall­ing back to the ground, the com­pany said.

With a length of 9 me­ters and a weight of 7.2 met­ric tons, the rocket reached a hy­per­sonic speed of Mach 5.7 — 5.7 times the speed of sound, or 1.94 kilo­me­ters per sec­ond. It reached an al­ti­tude of 38.7 km.

The mis­sion ver­i­fied the rocket’s over­all de­sign and re­li­a­bil­ity, the com­pany said. It ful­filled a long, con­trol­lable flight, car­ry­ing a pay­load for Shenyang Air­craft De­sign and Re­search In­sti­tute un­der Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Corp of China, ob­tain­ing a great deal of data for the rocket de­sign­ers and the in­sti­tute.

The com­pany said the craft adopted sev­eral in­stru­ments that were new to Chi­nese rock­ets, such as the drag-mit­i­gat­ing pole and built-in com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­vices.

In­spired by Elon Musk and his leg­endary com­pany SpaceX, at least four pri­vate Chi­nese com­pa­nies — OneS­pace, LandS­pace, LinkS­pace and i-Space — have an­nounced plans to de­velop, make and launch car­rier rock­ets. Through Thurs­day’s mis­sion, OneS­pace has be­come the first to re­al­ize the goal.

Re­search and de­vel­op­ment of the OS-X took only one year. OneS­pace said its de­sign­ers and en­gi­neers are able to de­velop and pro­duce al­most all key parts of a rocket, not­ing that many of them have worked for State-owned space con­trac­tors.

OS-X’s max­i­mum speed is Mach 20, or 6.8 km/s.

The rocket will mainly be used to con­duct proof-of-con­cept flights for new-con­cept air­craft or space­craft de­vel­oped by OneS­pace’s clients to ver­ify their aero­dy­namic de­signs. Many do­mes­tic in­sti­tutes have de­signed new con­cepts of air­craft and space­craft, and th­ese fu­tur­is­tic craft need to con­duct test flights atop a rocket to ex­am­ine whether their de­sign will work.

Es­tab­lished in 2015, a year now widely deemed as the open­ing chap­ter of China’s com­mer­cial space in­dus­try, OneS­pace has be­come a ris­ing star in the coun­try’s space arena, which has long been dom­i­nated by State-owned gi­ants.

Its rapid growth has been pos­si­ble thanks to the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to foster the com­mer­cial space sec­tor and en­cour­age par­tic­i­pa­tion from pri­vate en­ter­prises.

The com­pany also has taken ad­van­tage of the gov­ern­ment’s mea­sures to en­hance the in­te­grated de­vel­op­ment be­tween the civil­ian and de­fense sec­tors, Shu Chang, founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of OneS­pace, said at a news con­fer­ence on Thurs­day after the launch.

Shu said his com­pany is de­vel­op­ing the OS-M1, a larger rocket, to send small satel­lites to Sun-syn­chro­nous or­bits or low-Earth or­bits. He said the OS-M1’s de­but flight will take place near the end of 2018.

Ma Chao, OneS­pace’s pres­i­dent, said the OS-X is sched­uled to make an­other three launches this year.

WAN NAN / FOR CHINA DAILY

The OS-X, China’s first pri­vately built car­rier rocket, is pre­pared for its sub­or­bital flight on Thurs­day. It trav­eled 273 kilo­me­ters and hit Mach 5.7.

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