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Reusable craft are in CASIC's plans

By Zhao Lei | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-07 07:35

China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, one of the nation's major space contractors, said on Tuesday it is developing reusable spacecraft capable of taking off and landing at airports.

Liu Shiquan, deputy general manager of CASIC, told the 2017 Global Space Exploration Conference, which opened on Tuesday in Beijing, that the cutting-edge spacecraft's key technologies and major parts - such as its engine - have passed ground tests and the program is proceeding smoothly.

Yang Yuguang, a spaceflight expert and member of the International Astronautical Federation's Space Transportation Committee, said reusable spacecraft will have a wide range of applications, such as providing space tours for ordinary people, transporting astronauts, resupplying space stations as well as placing satellites into orbit.

Liu said the company also is designing a cargo re-entry spacecraft that will be used to transport cargo from a space station or space laboratory back to Earth, adding that the spacecraft will make its first flight in 2019.

In addition, CASIC's new-generation Kuaizhou 11 solid-fuel carrier rocket will make its maiden flight before the end of the year, expanding the contractor's share in the domestic and international commercial space market, Liu said.

In China, the term commercial space mission generally refers to one paid for by an entity other than a Chinese government or military department. Despite the country's long history of space exploration, commercial space missions are a new idea and are sought after by State-owned space contractors eager to seize lucrative opportunities beside government-assigned tasks.

CASIC began to develop the Kuaizhou-series solid-fuel rockets in 2009, intending to form a low-cost, quick-response rocket family for the commercial launch market. It has launched three Kuaizhou rockets so far.

The company previously said the Kuaizhou 11 will have a liftoff weight of 78 metric tons and will be able to put a 1-ton payload into a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 700 km, or a 1.5-ton payload into a low Earth orbit at an altitude of 400 km.

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