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Chinese space company completes a rocket hop reminiscent of early SpaceX

Deep Blue Aerospace hopes to create a miniature Falcon 9 for missions to low-Earth orbit.

A Nebula M-1 rocket briefly took flight from a test pad in central China.
Deep Blue Aerospace

A private rocket company headquartered outside of Shanghai demonstrated a new reusable launch vehicle at a test facility in China late last month.

The exact date Deep Blue Aerospace conducted a successful "grasshopper jump" of its Nebula M-1 rocket isn't clear, but video of the short hop appeared on YouTube and Chinese social media Sunday.

According to the company, the small rocket lit up its 3D-printed Thunder 5 engine to boost itself to a height of "nearly 10  meters" (33 feet) before slowly landing at nearly the same spot a few seconds later.

Deep Blue Aerospace did not immediately respond to a request for comment and clarification.

The term "grasshopper jump" is a nod to SpaceX, which nicknamed the prototype of its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket "Grasshopper." Indeed the short flight of the Nebula M-1 looked like a scaled-down version of early SpaceX test hops. At over 100 feet (30 meters) tall, the SpaceX Grasshopper dwarfs the 24-foot (7.3 meter) Nebula M-1.

According to the company's website, it hopes to develop reusable rockets capable of lifting small satellites to low-Earth orbit and returning for a landing on Earth.

Another Chinese company, Linkspace, successfully sent a similar rocket to a height of 984 feet (300 meters) in 2019, bringing it back down for a soft landing. But little has been heard from the company since.

There have also been rumblings that some of the Chinese government's much bigger Long March rockets will soon be reusable.

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