China moves ahead in horizontally-launched spacecraft

Updated 2017-06-08 10:30:57 Global Times

China has moved ahead with its research and development of reusable horizontal take-off and landing spacecraft, and has completed tests of key components, including engines, a senior executive of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), said Tuesday.

Progress has also been made in the research and development of reliable and cost-effective solid fuel launch vehicles, Liu Shiquan, CASIC deputy general manager, said at the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX 2017) on Tuesday, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Horizontally-launched craft are carried to the edge of space by a "mother ship" before separating and leaving the planet's atmosphere, Xinhua reported.

This year has witnessed the successful launch of the Kaituo-2A and Kuaizhou-1A launch vehicles, and the Kuaizhou-11 launcher will be tested for the first time by the end of the year, paving the way for Chinese commercial space vehicles which will be the "commuting space buses" of the future, Liu said.

Research on reusable vessels which can carry cargo into space is proceeding smoothly and will be tested in 2019, Liu added.

CASIC declined to provide additional information on the research when reached by the Global Times on Wednesday.

The idea of rockets for commercial use shows that China has been promoting civil-military integration, as rocket science and technology have been applied not only for space exploration and national defense purposes but for practical applications as well, Wang Ya'nan, chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The move, which includes greater private investment, will make China more globally competitive in rocket applications and help expand the domestic market, Wang added.

CASIC, the backbone of the national science and technology industries, is a large State-owned high-tech firm directly under China's central government.

This year's GLEX conference is being held on Tuesday and Wednesday, where leaders in space exploration discuss recent achievements, challenges and innovations, according to Xinhua.

The total value of the global aerospace market could hit 5 billion by 2020, with the Chinese market value reaching 800 billion yuan (6 billion) for the 2016-20 period, according to a Xinhua report in May.

In January 2017, Beijing-based private aerospace company Landspace Technology Corporation said it had secured a contract with Danish firm Gomspace to launch a series of satellites, marking the first time a private Chinese company will be providing satellite launching services to the international market, the company said Saturday.

The agreement calls for Landspace to use its Landspace-1 rocket to put Gomspace's satellites in orbit in 2018.

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