Galactic Energy Company promised to launch China’s first reusable rocket into orbit in November 2024. In the country, several private enterprises are fighting for the right to become the first in the production of reusable launch vehicles. Most of them intend to debut in 2025, so Galactic Energy could be the first to make a historic start.
The head of Galactic Energy announced the readiness to launch the partially reusable Pallas-1 rocket in the coming November after a visit to the production facility at the end of January 2024. “Pallada-1 will be ready for flight in November of this year, said Mr. Liu Baiqi. “People will be able to watch the launch from the coast of the South China Sea and enjoy the beauty of wisdom and technology.”
At the same time, Liu Baiqi refused to answer the question whether the first stage of the rocket would be returned. He emphasized that this is classified information and is not yet subject to discussion.
The startup Galactic Energy was created in 2018 and has already established itself as one of the leaders in private space exploration in China. The company’s first rocket, a small four-stage 20-m Ceres-1 (“Ceres-1”) powered by solid propellant engines, made 9 successful launches. An accident occurred on the tenth launch, but this does not negate the achievements of Galactic Energy.
The Pallada-1 rocket is being developed as partially reusable. This is a 49-meter medium-class launch vehicle that will be able to launch up to 5 tons of cargo into low orbit and 3 tons into sun-synchronous orbit. At the first stage, 7 engines with adjustable thrust of 50 tons each are installed, and they operate on a mixture of kerosene and oxygen. The company developed its Cangqiong (Welkin) engines independently.
South China Morning Post sources claim that the company is unlikely to return the first stage to the launch pad in November, although the Pallada-1 rocket is quite capable of reaching orbit. According to those in the know, Pallada-1 has not undergone large-scale testing. Only a small prototype was tested, which was checked from the point of view of the operation of the on-board software, but not from the point of view of the soft landing of a large-scale product.
In addition to Galactic Energy, reusable rockets are being developed by Chinese companies LandSpace Technology, iSpace, ExPace and a subsidiary of the Chinese state space corporation CAS Space. All of them, one way or another, can only boast of prototype jumps to low heights. Elon Musk’s American company SpaceX is leading the global field of reusable rockets. China needs reusable launch vehicles for the same reason why Musk has been creating them for many years – the deployment of thousands of communications satellite constellations in orbit.