Chinese startup aims to debut new reusable rocket next year

 Liftoff of the second Ceres-1 solid rocket from Jiuquan in the Gobi Desert, Dec. 7, 2021.
Liftoff of the second Ceres-1 solid rocket from Jiuquan in the Gobi Desert, Dec. 7, 2021.

A Chinese launch startup is making moves toward launching its small Falcon 9-like rocket.

Galactic Energy was established in 2018 and is already working toward a test launch of its Pallas 1 rocket. Powered by the company's own Cangqiong kerosene-liquid oxygen engines, Pallas 1 will be capable of carrying 11,000 pounds (5,000 kilograms) of payload to low Earth orbit.

The startup has already made a name for itself by successfully developing and launching a light-lift solid-fueled rocket named Ceres 1. Each of the five Ceres 1 launches so far, starting in November 2020, have been successful, marking an impressive start for the company.

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However, Galactic Energy is hoping to make a real breakthrough with the liquid-propellant Pallas 1. A clip recently released by Galactic Energy shows the rocket body for the single-stick Pallas 1 at the company's facilities.

Also shown is a model of a "triple core" version, much like the SpaceX Falcon Heavy, which is expected to follow the single-stick Pallas 1 in years to come.

The Pallas 1 medium-lift launch vehicle, however, presents a set of much larger challenges than the solid Ceres 1. The new rocket uses kerosene and liquid oxygen, requiring much more complex engines.

Pallas 1 is also designed to be reusable, which means the company will need to overcome the difficulties of not only getting a payload to orbit, but also guiding the first stage toward a fixed point back on Earth, restarting the engines and sticking a propulsive landing.

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Galactic Energy last year raised $200 million for the development of the Pallas 1.

China has yet to develop a reusable rocket. Only the U.S. companies SpaceX (orbital) and Blue Origin (suborbital) have so far managed to land and reuse rockets.

Galactic Energy faces competition in China from other private startups developing reusable liquid-propellant rockets. These include Landspace with the Zhuque 2, iSpace and its Hyperbola 2, Deep Blue Aerospace, CAS Space and Space Pioneer.

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