China Defeats SpaceX to Successfully Launch World’s First Methane-Powered Rocket

Chinese aerospace company LandSpace achieved a significant milestone by successfully launching the Zhuque-2 rocket on July 12th, surpassing Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The rocket, powered by methane and liquid oxygen, took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi desert. It flawlessly placed a test payload into the sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). LandSpace has become the first aerospace company worldwide to accomplish this achievement.

This launch was the second attempt for Zhuque-2, as its initial launch in December of the previous year had encountered failure. However, the recent successful launch demonstrates LandSpace’s determination and progress in the field of aerospace technology.

Why Methane-powered engines are sought after?

Methane-powered engines have emerged as a promising technology in the aerospace industry, offering significant business opportunities.

  • These engines are highly desirable due to their high-performance capabilities and cost-effectiveness.
  • One notable advantage is that methane can be produced in space itself by combining water and carbon dioxide.
  • This technology is particularly well-suited for reusable rockets, making it a leading design in the new era of rocketry.

However, it is important to note that there have been some setbacks this year. Two launch attempts utilizing methane-powered engines, namely the Terran 1 by Relativity Space in the US and SpaceX’s Starship, ended in failure, as they were unable to reach space during their initial attempts. Despite these challenges, the potential of methane-powered engines remains significant in shaping the future of space exploration.

Chinese Aerospace Industry on a roll

China’s aerospace sector continues to demonstrate its prowess with yet another remarkable achievement.

  • In April of this year, Beijing Tianbing Technology Co, a Chinese private sector company, made history by becoming the first private company worldwide to reach orbit successfully on its initial attempt.
  • The company launched its debut rocket, Tianlong-2, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert.
  • It accomplished the mission by deploying a small remote-sensing satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit.
  • Notably, the rocket used kerosene and oxygen as propellants, marking a significant step towards the development of reusable rockets that can be refueled and reused.

This achievement further highlights the impressive progress of China’s aerospace sector, demonstrating the country’s commitment and expertise in space exploration and technological advancements. The successful implementation of methane-powered rocket technology by Chinese companies showcases the sector’s exceptional capabilities and innovation.

Is India also developing methane-powered engines?

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is actively engaged in the development of two engines known as “LOx methane” engines. These engines utilize liquid oxygen as the oxidizer and methane as the fuel.

The first project involves the conversion of the existing cryogenic engine, which presently employs liquid hydrogen as fuel, into a LOx methane engine. This initiative aims to enhance the engine’s efficiency and performance.

The second project focuses on the development of a smaller engine with a thrust capacity of three tonnes. This engine will incorporate an electric motor, offering additional advantages in terms of propulsion technology. Both projects are being carried out at ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre located in Trivandrum. These endeavors signify ISRO’s commitment to advancing propulsion technology and exploring more efficient and environmentally friendly fuel options for space missions.


What is the Zhuque-2?

The Zhuque-2 is a Chinese medium-class orbital launch vehicle developed by LandSpace. It is a liquid-fuelled rocket powered by liquid oxygen and liquid methane (methalox) and is the first methane-fueled rocket to reach orbit.

What are the challenges of using methane as a rocket fuel?

Methane is a more complex fuel than kerosene, so it is more difficult to manufacture and handle. Additionally, methane is a cryogenic fuel, which means that it must be stored at very low temperatures. This can make it challenging to use methane in launch vehicles.

What are the benefits of using methane as a rocket fuel?

Methane is a more efficient fuel than kerosene, so it can carry more payload into orbit for the same amount of fuel. Additionally, methane is a cleaner fuel than kerosene, so it produces less pollution when it is burned.


  • Shubham Mittal

    Shubham Mittal is a renowned current affairs writer and expert in government exam preparation, inspiring readers with insightful articles and guiding aspirants with his expertise.

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