Chinese launch startup tests landing rockets with jet-powered prototype

a large white rocket on its side in a factory
A Pallas-1 rocket. (Image credit: Galactic Energy)

A Chinese startup is taking jet-powered steps to landing and reusing rockets. 

Chinese commercial launch company Galactic Energy announced in late July that it had recently used a small test article propelled by a jet engine to test guidance software for landing rockets.

The trajectory deviation, landing point deviation, attitude deviation and other indicators all met the design requirements, according to a Galactic Energy statement.

The "Firebird-1" vehicle used for the flight is a small technology verification platform. The company is working towards a "hop test" with Firebird-6 which will be powered by a kerosene-liquid oxygen engine. 

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The tests are part of the plan to make the company's upcoming Pallas 1 rocket reusable. Galactic Energy is targeting a first test flight of Pallas 1 next year. The rocket is designed to be capable of carrying 11,000 pounds (5,000 kilograms) of payload to low Earth orbit. 

The first launch will be expendable, but the firm plans to make the rocket capable of being recovered by a Falcon 9-like vertical landing in 2025. 

Galactic Energy is one of a number of Chinese launch startups and is one of its most successful, having succeeded with all six of its launches of its Ceres 1 small solid rocket. 

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. But Galactic Energy and Chinese counterparts  Landspace (with the Zhuque 2 rocket), iSpace (Hyperbola 2), Deep Blue Aerospace (Nebula 1) CAS Space (Lijian rockets) and Space Pioneer (Tianlong 3) are all developing reusable launch vehicles.

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.