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A Chinese startup conducted fire tests of its more compact counterpart SpaceX Starship.

Published: 2023-01-20

The Chinese company Jiuzhou Yunjian announced that at its test site in Anhui province, the JZYJ Longyun-70 rocket engine in combination with the Space Epoch stainless steel fuel tank was successfully fire tested. Both startups appear to be following the path of Elon Musk's SpaceX, intending to build a reusable rocket similar to the Starship.

Space Epoch's 64m high stainless steel rocket will have to lift a 6.5 tonne payload into a 1100km sun-synchronous orbit. The launch vehicle can be reused up to 20 times. The rocket will be driven by methane-liquid-oxygen engines, the prototype of which has just passed static fire tests complete with a steel fuel tank with a diameter of 4.2 m.

The static fire tests included an ignition check and restart, as well as a low fuel ignition. The name of the prototype also refers to the practice of SpaceX. The XZH-1 D1 prototype was undergoing fire tests, and the XZH-1 D2 prototype will be used for the first suborbital flight to check the possibility of recovery after landing in the ocean. This event is expected this year.

The rocket developer, startup Space Epoch, received its first major funding in August last year. The company aims to become a leader in China's commercial space, including point-to-point delivery of goods on Earth, space tourism, planetary defense and deep space exploration.

Startup Jiuzhou Yunjian, which created the 70-ton Longyun-70 engine, was founded in 2017 and was previously selected by another Chinese startup, Rocket Pi, for its Darwin-1 rocket, which could be launched as early as this year. The same engine seems to be being considered by SAST (owned by CASC Corporation) for another Chinese project, repeating the Starship project, but on a larger scale.

Finally, another CASC division, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), is also working on an analogue of Starship.