This was the first orbital launch attempt by the Chinese commercial company OneSpace. The four-stage, solid-fuel OS-M booster apparently failed after first stage separation. The launch was conducted from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
CEO Shu Chang, whose company has successfully launched two suborbital OS-X boosters, vowed to carry on.
“We will endeavor to launch another OS-M carrier rocket, as well as two to three OS-X suborbital rockets before the end of this year,” Shu said late Wednesday at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, where the first OS-M rocket mission was undertaken.
“I accept today’s failure,” he said. “Other solid-propellant carrier rockets before ours also have had setbacks in their development, but all of them passed through hard times and eventually succeeded. Explorations in science and technology have successes and failures. We will never flinch or quit.”
The booster was carrying a small satellite built by the Chinese company ZeroG Technology.
The OS-M booster is capable of payloads weighing 205 kg (452 lb) into low-Earth orbit or 143 kg (315 lb) into sun-synchronous orbit.
This is the second failure by a Chinese commercial launch company. Last year, LandSpace’s Zhuque-1 rocket failed to reach orbit.
I am very pleased to say that the OS-M launch vehicle has completed assembly rehearsal and is currently in the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for final preparations. Thanks to all who’ve worked so hard on it!👏👏 Check out “OS-M assembly rehearsal” video!!😍 pic.twitter.com/AvE6uUGpaz
Editor’s Note: OneSpace says their attempt to launch the OS-M orbital booster is scheduled for Wednesday, March 27. If successful, it will be the first privately-backed Chinese rocket company to place a payload into space. (An attempt by LandSpace failed last year.)
The booster will be carrying a small satellite built by the Chinese company ZeroG Technology. The OS-M booster is capable of payloads weighing 205 kg (452 lb) into low-Earth orbit or 143 kg (315 lb) into sun-synchronous orbit.
This will be OneSpace’s third launch attempt. It twice flew its OS-X booster on suborbital flights in 2018.
There were 15 flight tests of eight suborbital boosters in 2018, including six flights of two vehicles — Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin’s New Shepard — that are designed to carry passengers on space tourism rides.
The race to provide launch services to the booming small satellite industry also resulted in nine flight tests of six more conventional boosters to test technologies for orbital systems. Two of the boosters tested are designed to serve the suborbital market as well.
A pair of Chinese startups took advantage of a loosening of government restrictions on launch providers to fly their rockets two times apiece. There was also suborbital flight tests of American, Japanese and South Korean rockets.
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.)