A Chinese private space company’s satellite launch has failed

A rendering of OneSpace’s OX-M rocket in flight.
A rendering of OneSpace’s OX-M rocket in flight.
Image: OneSpace
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The Chinese space firm OneSpace failed to launch its rocket into the orbit today—another setback for China’s private space industry, following a failed launch attempt by a different privately funded company last year.

OneSpace launched a four-stage solid propellant rocket at 5:39 pm Beijing time at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, in northern China. But the rocket lost control after its first-stage separation, local news media Sina Technology reported (link in Chinese). OneSpace said on Monday (April 1) that a second stage component malfunction (link in Chinese) occurred 45.68 seconds after takeoff. It led to the loss of attitude control of the rocket.

The rocket, OS-M, is 19 meters (60 feet) tall, weighs 20 metric tons (22 tons), and consists of three solid-propellant stages and a fourth liquid-propellant stage. It was meant to send a satellite that weighs less than 100 kg (220 lbs) into the orbit.

The launch failure adds more uncertainty to China’s private space industry, as multiple private space companies jostle to enter the launch market for small commercial satellites. China’s government called for private capital investment in the sector in 2014, but so far no company has been able to launch a rocket into the orbit. A three-stage solid-propellant rocket from another Beijing-based space firm, LandSpace, failed at the third stage in October.

There has been some success though. OneSpace launched a rocket in May of last year. Beijing Interstellar Glory Space Technology (also known as iSpace) also pulled off a suborbital launch in September.

Update, April 2: The story was updated with an analysis of the failure.