China eyes development of liquid hydrocarbon-powered reusable launch vehicles

Updated 2018-03-08 10:14:01

China is developing a reusable launch vehicle fueled by liquid hydrocarbon which will greatly reduce the cost of launching rockets, aerospace experts said.

The research team has made progress in several key technologies, such as the thrust adjustment, multi-startup and repeated hot-fire engine tests, Liu Zhirang, head of the Sixth Research Institute of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation and also a deputy to the 13th National People's Congress (NPC), told the Science and Technology Daily.[Special coverage]

China is expected to safely recover the rockets in the near future and plans to conduct research on reusable engines fueled by liquid hydrocarbon. The engine poses the greatest challenge in developing reusable rockets, Liu said.

The reusable rockets increase the cost of technologies, such as sensing devices on the recovery system, but could reduce the cost in other aspects, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times.

Compared with disposable rockets, reusable rockets should be able to return and be recycled, which sets a high requirement for the engine's thrust adjustment capability, Liu said.

The engine's lifespan should also be increased, which requires an improvement in the engine's design and the development of technologies on quick checks, life prediction and assessment of the engine, Liu added.

"The design to increase its lifespan, the reliability of its structure and stability are all challenging," Liu was quoted as saying. He said that the research team has to conduct a thorough assessment of the residue contained in the engine after being used.

"Many countries are developing reusable launch vehicles to reduce the cost of launching," Song said.

Private U.S. space flight company SpaceX has made some achievements in partial recovery and reusing rockets.

Song said China would also connect the government with private companies in the future to develop aerospace technology.

China plans to launch its reusable launch vehicle in 2020, the Xinhua News Agency reported in October 2017.

The new spacecraft will fly like an aircraft, and can transport people or payload in orbit and return to Earth, Xinhua said.

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