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China's first privately funded orbital rocket fails

By Brooks Hays

March 26 (UPI) -- The rocket launch by the Beijing-based OneSpace has failed. The startup was attempting to send China's first privately funded orbital rocket into space.

Shortly after blastoff, the OS-M Chongqing launch vehicle's second stage failed, according to NASASpaceFlight.com.

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The rocket, which launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Inner Mongolia's Gobi desert, was attempting to send a small test satellite into orbit. The Lingque-1B technology satellite was designed and built by ZeroG Labs, a Beijing-based nano satellite company.

Shortly after the failure, footage of the launch surfaced on Chinese social media, according to SpaceNews. The video suggests the rocket lost control shortly after the first and second stages separated, a minute after blastoff.

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OneSpace is one of several young private space companies in China. The company developed the OS-1M vehicle, a solid fuel three stage orbital rocket, to carry small satellites into low Earth orbit.

"We are a bunch of young people gathered together and we want to make a cost-effective launch service for nanosatellites and microsatellites," Shu Chang, founder and CEO of OneSpace, told reporters at the Farnborough International Airshow last year.

While other private space companies, like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, have focused on developing reusable rocket technology, as well as larger, more powerful rockets, OneSpace designed a smaller rocket using older technology, the company told SpaceNews in an interview.

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"Our launcher adopts the solid-fuel propellant, which is relatively low-cost and more convenient for launch. I believe it will provide customers efficient, reliable and rapid in response launching services with a competitive price," OneSpace representatives said.

On Wednesday, it was attempting to become the first private space company in China to launch an orbital rocket. Late last year, OneSpace successfully launched a suborbital rocket, but has yet to send a rocket into space.

The young space company was prepared for the possibility of failure.

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"If this rocket launch is a success, it will be the first successful launch by a Chinese private company," OneSpace told SpaceNews. "But if not, this is also a valuable attempt for us -- to correct our technology."

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