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Low-cost space trips on near horizon

By ZHANG ZHOUXIANG | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-25 07:19

A Long March-2C rocket carrying an astronomical satellite, the Space-based Multi-band Variable Object Monitor (SVOM), blasts off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan province on June 22, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

It took just six minutes for China's first 10-kilometer-level reusable carrier rocket to undergo its vertical takeoff and vertical landing flight test in Jiuquan, Gansu province, on Sunday.

The rocket used three domestically developed Deep Throttling Liquid Oxygen/Methane Engines as the first application, similar to what Falcon Heavy, the world-famous reusable rocket developed by SpaceX, uses for its trips. Liquid oxygen and methane produce nothing but water and carbon dioxide on burning, which, besides being clean, causes zero coking and carbon deposit that make it suitable for spaceships.

The liquid oxygen methane engines must be able to switch off and restart multiple times and adjust the thrust in order to support the rocket in all stages, accelerating while ascending, and then decelerating while ascending, descending and landing. According to reports, the central engine of the test rocket worked for around 380 seconds during the flight, proving its reliability and usability in future flights.

The engine is only one of the technologies the rocket employs. It also has a landing buffering system with four landing legs that can open when the rocket is about 50 meters above the ground, enabling it to land softly; a high-accuracy navigation system that guides the rocket to its landing site; and a health monitoring system for manned trips in the future.

China testing this reusable rocket lays the foundation for low-cost flights to the moon in the future.


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