China makes first successful private orbital rocket launch

Chinese state media says a Beijing-based rocket developer has become the country's first private company to successfully complete an orbital launch

BEIJING -- A Beijing-based rocket developer sent two satellites into orbit Thursday, becoming China's first private company to successfully complete an orbital launch, state media said.

The launch took place from a satellite center in northwest China on Thursday afternoon, Xinhua state news agency reported.

Xinhua said the SQX-1 Y1, a four-stage small commercial carrier rocket, was developed by the firm i-Space.

i-Space said in a statement about the launch that it marked a "new chapter" for China's private commercial space industry. "i-Space was formed in the era of the nation trying to become a space power," the statement said.

China's space program has developed rapidly. When it conducted its first crewed mission in 2003, it became the third country — behind just Russia and the U.S. — to put humans into space using its own technology.

Another Beijing-based firm, Landspace, attempted to deploy a private satellite-carrying rocket last October, but the rocket failed in its third stage.