BEIJING, April 2 (Reuters) – Beijing Tianbing Technology Co on Sunday successfully launched a kerosene-oxygen rocket, becoming the first private Chinese launch company to send a liquid-propellant rocket into space and taking another step towards developing reusable rockets.

Chinese commercial space firms have rushed into the sector since 2014, when private investment in the industry was allowed by the state. Many started making satellites while others including Beijing Tianbing focused on developing reusable rockets that can significantly cut mission costs.

The non-reusable Tianlong-2 rocket, or “Heavenly Dragon” in Chinese, was developed by Beijing Tianbing, also known as Space Pioneer. It was successfully launched into orbit from the Jiuquan launch centre in northwest China on Sunday, according to Chinese state media.

Unlike solid-propellant rockets that cannot adjust their flow of fuel, liquid-propellant rockets have significantly greater control over their flight, with some such as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 capable of returning to Earth in controlled descents and making vertical landings.

Recent funding secured by Beijing Tianbing is expected to finance the launch of a larger Tianlong-3 rocket with a reusable first stage. The company also has plans to launch an even bigger variant of the Tianlong-3 akin to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy.

Reusable rockets will help expedite the building of Chinese constellations of commercial satellites that can offer services ranging from high-speed internet for aircraft to tracking coal shipments.

In its latest five-year plan for 2021-2025, the Chinese government has called for an integrated network of satellites for communications, remote sensing and navigation. China currently has more than 400 satellites in space, including commercially owned satellites, according to state media.

Reporting by Ryan Woo; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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