China’s version of SpaceX has successfully launched and recovered a rocket in a critical step toward developing reusable spacecraft. iSpace’s Hyperbola-2 methane-liquid oxygen rocket went up about 600 feet and then descended under power to a soft landing on its four legs. The 60-foot rocket is a test stage only and is used for evaluating the various guidance and navigation systems and the variable thrust Focus-1 engine that make it possible. iSpace is more formally known as the Glory Space Technology Ltd. and was created as a commercial entity to emulate Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
The Chinese government has set 2025 for the launch of a truly reusable rocket and has been using SpaceX and its Falcon 9 launch system as a model. iSpace called the test hop a “major breakthrough” that “signals the charge for China’s aerospace sector to catch up with the world’s most advanced levels in reusable launch vehicle technology.” SpaceX has been reusing Dragon rockets since 2015 and has logged more than 200 launches with boosters that had been previously launched.