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CNSA increases rocket launches

– News of July 10, 2018 –

China will set new records for rocket launches. In January, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced plans to carry out some 40 rocket launches in 2018. For the moment, the pace is being maintained. This high rythm allows China to be present everywhere : Earth observation, satellite navigation system, exploration of the Moon and Mars, manned flights, space station… Moreover, the efforts of the CNSA are supported by a burgeoning private industry : the start-up One Space realized last May the first suborbital shot of one of its rockets, while another Chinese company has just been funded $ 90 million to develop its launcher. Among the multitude of projects that are emerging in China, two projects of the China National Space Administration are strategic : the super heavy launcher Long March 9 (Chang Zheng-9) and the reusable rocket Long March 8 (Chang Zheng-8).

At a conference, a designer revealed that Long March 9 will have a first floor 10 meters in diameter, which is wider than SpaceX’s BFR or NASA’s SLS. This width is comparable with the width of the Saturn 5. In addition, the rocket will be equipped with four boosters with a diameter of 5 meters each. The Long March 9 will have a floor width of 20 meters, for a height of 93 meters. The set will form a total mass of 4000 tons at takeoff and will be powered by engines developing 6000 tons of thrust. This will allow the launcher to place 140 tons of payload in low orbit, 50 tons in transfer orbit to the moon or 44 tons in transfer orbit to Mars. The rocket will be used for a mission to return Martian samples and for manned flights to the Moon. The CNSA is aware of the scope of the project and gives itself until 2030 to make a first flight.

Long March 8 should arrive much faster. This launcher is CNSA’s first attempt to develop a reusable rocket like SpaceX can. Long March 8 is a medium-capacity launcher that will use two powder boosters. The first floor and the two boosters will probably be recovered by landing vertically. Boosters will stay glued to the first floor. Long March 8 could be launched as early as 2021 and will be offered on the international commercial market. Prices proposed by the China National Space Administration should be very low, which would increase even more the launch pace.

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