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China launches first privately built rocket

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China’s first privately built rocket had a test launch on Thursday, the latest step in the country’s push to open its space programme to private companies.

Beijing-based start-up OneSpace said its carrier rocket, named Chongqing Liangjiang Star, blasted off from a base in north-west China, state media reported.

The 9-metre-long rocket reached a height of 42 kilometres and an outer space at 100 kilometres above sea level, according to convention.

The rocket, weighing 7,200 kilogrammes, reached five times the speed of sound and travelled a distance of 273 km.

OneSpace, which was founded in 2015, said it independently designed and developed the rocket engine’s technology with an investment of 78.5 million dollars but observers were questioning that claim, as it would generally take longer to build the technology from scratch.

The Chinese Government started encouraging private companies to invest in state-run space industry several years ago, as they had already done with considerable success in the United States.

Similarly to companies such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, OneSpace could aim to send tourists to space or help with satellite launches.

“SpaceX has inspired China’s space industry,’’ OneSpace founder, Shu Chang, told Xinhua.

The Chinese Government wanted firms to develop satellite applications for the private sector, expected to see a surge in demand in coming years, according to the Xinhua news agency.

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