Signing the Deal
HELSINKI, Finland — China’s Rocket Pi has reached an agreement with a liquid rocket engine manufacturer to supply engines for its Darwin-1 reusable launch vehicle.
The deal was announced on Oct. 30 by Jiuzhou Yunjian. It highlighted its use for Lingyun-70, 70-ton (sea level) thrust engines with capabilities of deep throttling, and Lingyun-10, 12.5-ton (vacuum) thrust engines. Another key use is for “tens of millions of yuan” (10 million yuan = $1.56 million).
The first stage of the 2.25-meter-diameter Darwin-1 launcher will be powered by a single Lingyun-70 engine, with the second stage powered by a Lingyun-10 engine.
In July, Rocket Pi received tens of millions of yuan in funding. Darwin-1 was also set for a test flight in early 2023, according to the report.
In the records, the rocket could capably launch 270 kilograms into low Earth orbit or 150 kilograms in a sun-synchronous orbit. Earlier plans, however, stated that the Darwin-1 first stage would be powered by five Lingyun-10 engines rather than a single Lingyun-70.
Rocket Pi, a new Chinese launcher, made its debut in March, announcing ambitions to develop Darwin-1 and a larger, medium-lift launcher. It further indicated that the “Sparkle-1” biology experiment payload would be launched on a Long March rocket in late 2021, as well as an orbiting space biology lab in 2025.
Cheng Wei, the company’s founder, also hinted at bigger plans, such as helping to build an “Earth-moon space economic zone.” It’s an idea proposed by the CEO of CASC, China’s top space contractor. Rocket Pi was co-founded by Zhuang Fengyuan, a Beihang University professor of space life sciences.
Tests by Other Companies
Jiuzhou Yunjian is an aeronautical start-up situated in Beijing that was launched in 2017. JZJY has tested its Lingyun-10 and Lingyun-70 engines extensively this year, including full fire and restart testing.
In January, JZYJ received an unknown amount of money from Zhongguancun Qihang Investment. The investment fund is part of the Zhongguancun Development Group, a Beijing-backed hi-tech commercialization platform. The funding was also part of an initiative to promote Beijing’s Haidian District’s Zhongguancun technology innovation area.
Following the success of Linkspace’s 300-meter-altitude hop test with an ethanol-powered tech demonstrator in 2019, Jiuzhou Yunjian inked a contract with the latter in 2019. As a further step toward an orbital launch vehicle, JZYJ was to supply 10-ton-thrust engines for a larger tech demonstrator.
Since then, Linkspace has been quiet, except for a recruitment notice released in March 2021.