iSpace Fails to Orbit Satellite for Second Time in 2021

The Chinese commercial launch provider iSpace failed to orbit a satellite with its Hyperbola-1 rocket for the second time in a row on Tuesday.

iSpace, which is also known as the Interstellar Glory Space Technology, said in a press release that the four-stage rocket worked as planned after liftoff from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. However, the fairing failed to separate, so the unidentified satellite could not enter its planned 500 km high sun synchronous orbit.

“This launch further verified the correctness of the overall plan of the Hyperbola-1 rocket, obtained effective flight data, and accumulated valuable experience and lessons,” the company said.

It was the second failure in three launch attempts for the commercial company. On Feb. 1, a Hyperbola-1 rocket carrying multiple satellites veered off course early during its flight. The company attributed the failure to a falling piece of foam.

iSpace made history in July 2019 when its Hyperbola-1 rocket placed several payloads into space. It was the first successful launch by a private Chinese company.

Quarterly Launch Report: US in the Lead Thanks to SpaceX

A Falcon 9 lifts off with 60 Starlink satellites on March 11, 2021. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

There were 27 orbital launch attempts with 26 successes and one failure during the first quarter of 2021. The United States accounted for nearly half the total with 13 launches behind nine flights by SpaceX.


Long March 7A Launches Test Satellite No. 9

The Long March 7A rocket lifts off on March 12, 2021. (Credit: Wu Tong Xiaoyu)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China’s Long March 7A rocket made its first successful flight on Friday, placing a technology verification satellite into orbit nearly a year after the booster failed in its maiden launch.

The booster lifted off at 1:51 a.m. from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China. The payload was the Shiyan-9 satellite, which will demonstrate new technologies.

A variant of the Long March 7 rocket, the three-stage booster is equipped with a third stage powered by hydrogen and liquid oxygen that is adapted from the older Long March 3B.

Long March 7A, which features four strap-on motors, is capable of launching 7 metric tons to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). This is a significant improvement on the Long March 3B, which can lift 5.5 metric tons to LEO.

Long March 7A’s first two stages and strap-on motors are powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen. These are cleaner propellants than the toxic hypergolic ones used on the Long March 3 and Long March 2 boosters, which Long March 7A will replace.

The maiden flight of Long March 7A failed during a classified launch on March 16, 2020. Long March 7 has succeeded in both of its launches.

China has succeeded in five of its six launches in 2021. An i-Space Hyperbola-1 booster carrying several unidentified payloads failed after launch on Feb. 1.

iSpace Says Errant Piece of Foam Caused Hyperbola-1 Launch Failure

Planned booster families (Credit: i-space)

Chinese launch provider iSpace (aka, Beijing Interstellar Glory Space Technology Co.) says that a piece of foam insulation caused the failure of its Hyperbola-1 rocket on Feb. 1.

“The flight failure…was located at a piece of insulation foam that should have fallen off. After falling off, it fell on the No. 4 grid rudder, causing the IV grid rudder to be blocked under the action of aerodynamic pressure,” the company said in a press release. “During the flight, the rudder IV was blown down again. After the rudder IV resumed the control system to track the command, the rudder deflection angle completed a deflection of more than 30 degrees in a short time, causing a sudden change in the attitude of the arrow body, which led to the failure of the flight test.”

It is not clear what payloads were lost in the launch failure. One report indicated six small satellites were on board.

iSpace became the first nominally private Chinese company to launch satellites into orbit in July 2019. The failed Feb. 1 flight was the company’s second launch attempt.

The four-stage, solid-fuel Hyperbola-1 rocket is 24 meter (78.7 foot) tall with a diameter of 1.4 meters (4.6 feet). It can launch a 300 kg (661.4 lb) payload into a 500 km (310.7 mile) high sun synchronous orbit.

Chinese iSpace Hyperbola-1 Launch Fails

Planned booster families (Credit: i-space)

A Beijing Interstellar Glory (iSpace) Hyperbola-1 rocket failed after liftoff from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Monday, marking a setback for the nominally private small-satellite launch provider.

“The rocket flew abnormally and the launch mission failed. The specific reasons are being further analyzed and investigated,” the company said in a statement. “Interstellar Glory set up a fault investigation committee and a fault review committee immediately to investigate and review the cause of the fault to reset the launch mission.”

Lost in the accident was a 6U CubeSat named Ark-2 (Fangzhou-2) built by the Beijing Space Ark Space Technology Co. The spacecraft was designed to test technologies to be used in Space Ark’s family of small- and medium-size recoverable satellites.

Hyperbola-1 is a four-stage, solid-fuel satellite launcher believed to be based on Chinese intercontinental ballistic missiles. The booster can loft 300 kg into low Earth orbit at a reported cost of $5 million.

The failure came 18 months after iSpace became the first nominally private company to launch satellites into orbit. A Hyperbola-1 launched two satellites on July 25, 2019.

Galactic Energy Raises $30 Million, Moves Forward on Pallas-1 Booster

Ceres-1 booster (Credit: Galactic Energy)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Galactic Energy, which became the second private Chinese launch provider to orbit a satellite on Saturday, has announced that it completed a Series A financing round of 200 million yuan ($30.25 million) in September.

In a press release, Galactic Energy said the funding will be used to manufacture and perform upgrades on the solid-fuel Ceres-1 small-satellite booster that flew last week. The funding will also allow the company to continue research and development on its larger liquid-fuel Pallas-1 (Zhishen-1) booster.


Suborbital Flights Stopped Being So Humdrum in 2018

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s first flight above 50 miles on Dec. 13, 2018. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Part 1 of 2

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Throughout the Space Age, suborbital flight has been the least exciting segment of the launch market. Operating in the shadow of their much larger orbital cousins, sounding rockets carrying scientific instruments, microgravity experiments and technology demonstrations have flown to the fringes of space with little fanfare or media attention.

The suborbital sector has become much more dynamic in recent years now that billionaires have started spending money in it. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic both made significant progress last year in testing New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo, respectively. Their achievements have raised the real possibility of suborbital space tourism flights in 2019. (I know. Promises, promises…. But, this year they might finally really do it. I think.)


Chinese Startup iSpace Launches Suborbital Rocket

Hyperbolic XQS-1X rocket (Credit: iSpace)

Chinese commercial launch provider iSpace successfully launched its Hyperbola-1Z suborbital booster with three payloads aboard from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Wednesday at 1 p.m. local time (0500 UTC), according to media reports.

The 9-meter (29.5-foot) tall, single stage solid-fuel rocket reached an altitude of 175 km (108 miles) and deployed the three suborbital payloads. One of the payloads parachuted back to Earth, media reports say.

In April, the company launched the suborbital Hyperbola-1S rocket to an altitude of 40 km (29.85 miles).

iSpace completed a series A round of fundraising in July that brought the total amount raised to 600 million yuan ($90 million) in 2018. The round was led by Matrix Partners China.

The company has plans to develop an orbital satellite launcher as well as a space plane.