China has beaten Elon Musk’s SpaceX and other US rivals to the post with its world-first launch of a methane-liquid oxygen rocket

LandSpace, one of the oldest private rocket companies in China, celebrated the successful launch of its state-of-the-art Zhuque-2 carrier rocket on Wednesday (12 July).

China’s successful methane rocket launch marks a step closer to President Xi Jinping’s goal to take on the US as the most dominant force in space travel.

The industry has been gunning for methane-fuelled rockets as they’re better for the environment and cheaper to run. 

Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin have been developing rocket engines that can use methane for years – but China has become the first country to house a company that has successfully launched one. 

The recent launch from northwest China is the second attempt from LandSpace. The private company suffered a failed launch in December. 

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By GlobalData

Following its launch last year, Matija Renčelj, a research fellow at the European Space Policy Institute in Vienna, told Bloomberg: “What it tells us is that China has had an extremely rapid evolution in its technological capabilities.

Renčelj said this was thanks to “the financial and political support that it is giving to its space sector and its space program.”

LandSpace has raised over $300m in government-backed funding since it was founded in 2015 by Zhang Changwu. The funding came from China’s SME Development Fund on top of other private investors. 

The funding, which grew when the Chinese government allowed private investment into the industry in 2014, has led many Chinese commercial space firms to launch themselves into the scene.

According to experts, methane-powered rockets are far more safe to run – but harnessing their power is a complicated process. 

The rocket is powered by using liquid methane as fuel and uses liquid oxygen as an oxidizer. This provides non-toxic emissions and allows for the rockets to be reused.