Front Page: Deep Blue Aerospace Conducts 100-Meter VTVL Rocket Test

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

by Andrew Jones — October 13, 2021
A 100-meter-altitude vertical takeoff, vertical landing test at Tongchuan, Shaanxi Province, conducted by Deep Blue Aerospace, October 13, 2021. Credit: Deep Blue Aerospace

HELSINKI — Chinese private launch Deep Blue Aerospace completed a 100-meter level launch and landing test with its Nebula M1 VTVL test stage Wednesday.

Deep Blue Aerospace conducted the Nebula M1 vertical landing and vertical takeoff test at a facility at Tongchuan, Shaanxi Province, reaching a height of 100 meters before a powered descent and vertical landing, the company announced Oct. 13.

Footage from the test shows liftoff occurring with landing legs already deployed. The Nebula M1 hovers above the launch and landing area, before it bounces after initial touchdown. However, the video ends with the Nebula M1 apparently standing upright.

The Nebula M1 is powered by a variable thrust Leiting-5 electric-pump-fed kerolox engine.

The test is part of the development of the 2. 25-meter-diameter Nebula-1 orbital launcher, with a planned first flight in 2023. The Nebula-1 is to be capable of lifting 500 kilograms to a 500-kilometer Sun-synchronous orbit.

Pretty cool footage of a 100 metre altitude vertical takeoff, vertical landing test by Chinese launch startup Deep Blue Aerospace today, following a 10-metre test in July. [DBA] https://t.co/GraIJEFHFl pic.twitter.com/p7DTz4Udh9

— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) October 13, 2021

The test follows a “hop” to around 10 meters in July which used the same Nebula-M1 reusable VTVL prototype as Wednesday’s test. Deep Blue Aerospace refers to the tests as “grasshopper jumping”, referring to SpaceX’s Grasshopper experiments as part of Falcon 9 development.

A Deep Blue Aerospace spokesperson told SpaceNews that the technical team is currently reviewing test data ahead of deciding the next steps.

The firm is currently working on the assembly of the followup Nebula-M2 test stage and testing of the launcher’s Leiting-20, 20-ton-thrust kerolox engine.

Beijing Deep Blue Aerospace Technology Co., Ltd. was established in 2017 and is headquartered in Nantong City near the mouth of the Yangtze River. It is one of a number of Chinese private launch companies which have emerged since China’s central government opened up the sector in late 2014. Deep Blue Aerospace is the first to develop liquid launch vehicles. This skips solid rockets, which many Chinese startups prefer to pursue.

A number of Chinese startups are now developing rockets with reusable first stages. A 2019 test by Linkspace reached an altitude of 300 meters with a small rocket using ethanol and liquid oxygen propellant engines. Linkspace has remained silent, and satellite imagery shows no activity at the test site located in Qinghai’s Lenghu region.

Space Pioneer and iSpace are preparing their own hop tests using the Tansuo-1 and a Hyperbola-2 first stage test vehicles respectively. Landspace is meanwhile planning to upgrade its Zhuque-2 methalox orbital launcher for reusability following its first launch which is expected in the coming months.

Galactic Energy, which is gearing up for new launches of its Ceres-1 solid rocket, are also developing a VTVL-capable liquid rocket, Pallas-1.

Huo Liang, founder of Deep Blue Aerospace, first started out with the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC), before joining OneSpace, one of the first Chinese private launch companies and a solid rocket maker.

Deep Blue Aerospace has attained national high-tech enterprise and weapon equipment quality management system certification.

The country’s main space contractor, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), is also exploring reusability with its Long March 8 derived from existing Long March rockets, while a reusable variant based on the Long March 6 is being developed by CASC’s Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology.

CASC has also made full reusability a future goal for its launch vehicles, including a concept for a reusable super heavy-lift Long March 9.

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