(Photo: People's Daily)
The first phase of an intelligent production base for China's private rocket firm LandSpace, seen by some as China's answer to SpaceX, has started operations, making it the first private firm to do so.
The production base, located in Huzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, was opened on December 12 after inspection, according to a statement that LandSpace sent to the Global Times on Sunday.
The self-built facility, with an area of nearly 120 mu (8 hectares), is, to date, the largest private rocket base in Asia. It will guarantee mass commercial production of LandSpace's carrier rockets and engines as well as accelerate the pace of research and development (R&D) and tests of its products, said the statement.
The company's TQ-12 rocket engine and the ZQ 2 liquid-propellant carrier rocket will start production at the base in 2019. The ZQ 2, to be powered by the TQ-12, is scheduled to be launched in 2020. The second phase of its engine thermal test bench is also under construction.
Zhang Changwu, CEO of the Beijing-based firm, said "it is the route we must take to build a self-owned manufacturing base and thermal test bench."
Currently, the market has limited test facility resources, yet it is a prerequisite to guarantee sufficient test time for engines in the space sector, Zhang noted.
In October, LandSpace launched its first rocket, named ZQ-1, carrying a small satellite for State broadcaster China Media Group at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Northwest China's Gansu Province. The rocket's first and second stages worked well but an abnormality occurred during the third stage, and the cargo failed to reach its target orbit.
Since 2014 the Chinese government encouraged the participation of private enterprises in the space industry. The country now has more than 60 private companies in the commercial space industry.
OneSpace, another Beijing-based rocket start-up, told the Global Times on Sunday that its R&D and manufacturing base in Southwest China's Chongqing will start operations at the end of January, 2019.
OneSpace signed an agreement with Chongqing Liangjiang Aviation Industry Investment Group to build its base in May 2017. The company successfully launched the country's first privately designed commercial rocket in May this year.