iSpace Completes Rocket Launch, Adding Momentum to China’s Emerging Private Space Sector

On Sept. 5, at 1 p.m. local time, China’s commercial rocket startup iSpace launched a sub-orbital rocket into space from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province. The successful launch signals the dawn of an era where additional private space companies are authorized to conduct launches.

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The Hyperbola-1Z, codenamed SQX-1Z, carried three small payloads, EREBUS-1 developed by Beijing ZeroG Technology Co. Ltd., which parachuted back to Earth, and two other satellites, Tianfu Junrong-1 (TFJR-1) and Chengdu Gaoxin-1 (CDGX-1), both developed by Chengdu Guoxing Space Technology Co., Ltd., also known as ADA Space. After entering the presupposed sub-orbit, the rocket released two payloads for suborbital verification flight, in which one completes the parachute landing recovery.

According to official records, SQX-1Z is 9.5 meters tall and 1 meter in diameter. The rocket can reach an altitude of 175 kilometers and a velocity of 1.6 km/s in a flight lasting longer than 450 seconds.

This is the second launch for SQX-1Z, following its debut flight in Hainan on April 5 this year. The launch set three records for China’s private space sector: the first commercial rocket launch, the first rocket launch at a national satellite launch site, and the first rocket launch carrying multiple miniature satellites.

The private space sector in China has seen rapid development, with companies such as iSpace, Landspace, and OneSpace emerging and leading the industry. In addition to iSpace’s two launches, OneSpace launched a suborbital rocket in May, reaching an altitude of 38 kilometers during its 265-second flight. Its second launch is scheduled on Sept. 7 and is expected to carry an experimental payload for commercial customers. Landspace will also attempt its first launch in the final quarter of this year.

iSpace was founded in Oct. 2016 and has been operating since Aug. 2017. It has received series-A funding from investors led by Matrix Partners China in July this year, bringing its total external financing to 600 million yuan ($90.6 million).