The light launcher market is seeing the emergence of a new competitor, which can be recovered in the future.
Chinese and World First
On Sunday, April 2, Chinese startup Space Pioneer (founded in Beijing in 2015 as Tianbing Technology) completed the first mission of its lightweight three stage Tianlong 2 (TL 2) launch vehicle, in an interim version.
The launch occurred at 8:48 a.m. UTC from the Jiuquan base, located in northwestern China, 200 km south of the border with Mongolia.
It placed a microsatellite dedicated to Earth observation, Jinta (8 kg), into a sun-synchronous orbit (478 × 496 km, inclined 97.4°).
Space Pionner is the first private company to successfully fly its first all-liquid-propellant launch vehicle - in this case using a kerosene (RP-1)/liquid-oxygen mixture - on its first try.
A recoverable launch vehicle
Tianlong 2 is a 32.8 meter high by 3.35 meter diameter launch vehicle.
It would weigh about 150 tons at liftoff.
It has a maximum payload capacity to low earth orbit of 2 tons.
Many entities of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the Casc, appear to have contributed to the development of the launcher, including the three YF-102 engines that powered the interim first-stage version.
Eventually, Tianlong 2 is to be reusable : like the Falcon 9 of SpaceX, the first stage will return to earth vertically, thanks to a landing gear deployed shortly before ground contact.
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