China's 1st liquid-fueled rocket moved to launch pad for liftoff this month

a white rocket stands upright on a launch pad
A Space Pioneer Tianlong-2 rocket. (Image credit: Space Pioneer)

Chinese launch company Space Pioneer is all set for its first attempt to reach orbit, according to a photo from the country's Jiuquan spaceport.

Space Pioneer's Tianlong 2 rocket, which can translate to "heavenly dragon," is nearing its first launch and is set to lift off before the end of March, according to a recent report.

The expendable, three-stage Tianlong 2 uses a kerosene and liquid oxygen propellant mix. If the launch is successful, it will make Space Pioneer the first Chinese commercial firm to reach orbit with a liquid propellant rocket.

Related: China's launch of world's 1st methane-fueled orbital rocket fails, 14 satellites lost

Another company, Landspace, almost achieved this late last year with its methane-liquid oxygen Zhuque 2 (Vermillion Bird 2) rocket.

Tianlong 2 is designed to lift 4,400 pounds (2,000 kilograms) to low Earth orbit or 3,300 lbs. (1,500 kg) to a 310-mile-altitude (500 kilometers) sun-synchronous orbit. The company has yet to announce a date for the launch.

Space Pioneer is also developing a larger Tianlong 3 rocket it hopes can compete to launch stacks of satellites for China's plans for a communications megaconstellation. The national project seeks to rival SpaceX's constellation of Starlink satellites.

Commercial launch companies began emerging in China in 2014 after a central government decision to open parts of the space sector to private capital. 

A handful of companies, namely iSpace, Galactic Energy, Expace and CAS Space, have so far reached orbit with solid rockets. The latter pair are spinoffs from giant state-owned enterprises already engaged in China's space and defense sectors. 

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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.