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China advances toward reusable rocket with successful test

By ZHAO LEI | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-06-23 21:56

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), the nation's leading space contractor, conducted a significant technological test on Sunday, bringing the company closer to its goal of building the nation's first reusable carrier rocket.

The state-owned conglomerate announced that one of its subsidiaries, the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, used an experimental rocket to perform a "hop test" at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China's Gobi Desert. During this "vertical takeoff and vertical landing (VTVL)" test, the rocket ascended to approximately 12 kilometers and then made a controlled vertical landing.

The six-minute test was the most sophisticated VTVL experiment ever conducted by any Chinese reusable craft, verifying several crucial technologies for the scheduled maiden flight of a reusable rocket in 2025, according to CASC.

The experimental craft, with a diameter of 3.8 meters, is powered by three liquid oxygen-methane engines, CASC noted.

The hop test, or VTVL test, is a crucial step in the research and development of reusable rockets, allowing designers to assess the performance of reusable engines and the rocket's ability to land safely.

In addition to the Shanghai Academy, another CASC subsidiary, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing, is also developing reusable rockets.

Furthermore, two private Chinese enterprises have conducted hop tests of their own methane-fueled experimental crafts, striving to build reusable rockets.

The most renowned reusable rocket in the world, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, made its maiden launch in February 2018. All boosters on the American rocket's first stage can be recovered and reused, performing controlled re-entry and landing.

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