The development, and moves toward what would be the highest-altitude Chinese reusable launch and landing test to date, follow a long period of apparent inactivity for the company.
LinkSpace plans to send a rocket into space and land it safely in late 2022, three years after the startup's last major test. The company announced on May 5 that it had carried out a static fire test of its Reusable Launch Vehicle T6 (RLV-T6) rocket using new methane-fueled engines at a site in Jiangyin, Jiangsu Province.
The rocket later will be transported to Lenghu in the northwestern Chinese province of Qinghai, the site of LinkSpace's earlier tests. The team aims to launch the 47.5-foot-tall (14.5 meters) RLV-T6 to an altitude of around 62 miles (100 kilometres) and land it safely using landing legs and grid fins, similar to the way that the first stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket touches down. That altitude would take the rocket to the Kármán line, one definition of the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space, which will also involve a high-altitude environment and biological and other experiments.
LinkSpace was founded in 2014, around the time that China's government made a major policy shift to open up its previously closed space sector to private capital. Inspired by the progress of SpaceX and Blue Origin in reusable rocketry, LinkSpace developed test articles for vertical takeoff and vertical landing (VTVL) tests. The team performed two such tests in 2019 with its RLV-T5 rocket, powered by ethanol and liquid oxygen, the same propellant combination used by old German V2 rockets. The latter 2019 test soared to just over 984 feet (300 meters) and aced the landing.