rocket launch
© Reuters / Stringer
It was hoped Zhuque-1 would be the first privately developed Chinese rocket to enter space.
China's first privately-built space rocket has failed to make it to orbit after something "abnormal" happened during the third stage of lift-off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Saturday.

Beijing-based 'LandSpace' was the first private company in China to build a three-stage rocket. They said the first and second stage of its Zhuque-1 (ZQ-1) rocket launch went off without a hitch, but something went terribly wrong in the third and final stage.

"If the launch mission can go well, the ZQ-1 will become China's first private carrier rocket that can send satellites into space," said LandSpace CEO Zhang Changwu ahead of the groundbreaking launch, which followed nine months of development.

Video footage of the disastrous rocket launch shows the 19-meter-tall (62 ft) spacecraft lifting off into clear blue skies. It was reportedly carrying a satellite for the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, with a takeoff weight of 27 tons and a thrust of 45 tons. It cost a reported $14 million to develop.

LandSpace said in a Weibo post about the launch failure that "the first and second levels worked normally, the fairing separated normally, and the third level was abnormal." They did not elaborate further on the details of the incident.

"We are convinced that 'direct carrier rockets' is the right decision [for the company]," the statement continued. "Today, LandSpace is the first company in China to obtain a Chinese private carrier rocket launch license. It is the first private company in China to erect a three-stage launch vehicle."

"In the future, LandSpace will continue to move forward."

While this venture failed, the next attempt shouldn't be far behind. China currently has more than 60 private commercial space companies vying to reach the first milestone.

This week wasn't all bad for Chinese space projects, however. The Chinese company Shanghai ManWei Technology launched the world's first space gene bank into orbit on Thursday. The bank holds genetic material from eight Chinese citizens which will be stored in space for thousands of years.