China’s private space industry has suffered a setback after a leading startup failed in its first attempt to put a satellite in orbit.

LandSpace, a three-year-old company based in Beijing, said “something abnormal occurred” in the third phase of the launch Saturday that was meant to send a satellite into orbit for CCTV, China’s state-run television network.

The company is one of several Chinese startups that are trying to follow in the footsteps of Elon Musk’s SpaceX in making a viable business out of commercial space launches.

LandSpace says it’s the first private company in China to receive a license from the government to launch rockets carrying satellites, as well as the first to build a three-stage launch vehicle for such a mission.

The company aims to eventually carry out launches for companies around the world, and to play a role in China’s broader spaceflight goals, according to its website.

LandSpace's "Zhuque-1" vehicle launching from a base in northwestern China on Saturday.
LandSpace’s “Zhuque-1” vehicle launching from a base in northwestern China on Saturday.

LandSpace spokesman Guo Xin said the company is investigating what caused the launch of its “Zhuque-1” vehicle to fail. The problem occurred after the rocket took off from a satellite launch center in the northwestern province of Gansu on Saturday afternoon.

Another Beijing-based startup, OneSpace, made headlines in May with the launch of what it called “the first rocket developed and built entirely with homegrown technology.” But that rocket is only designed to carry out tests and research during suborbital flights.

The private Chinese companies have a long way to go to match the feats of SpaceX, which regularly launches big rockets that put satellites in orbit and then return to Earth.