Tuesday, November 21, 2017

China Lays Out Its Roadmap for Space Transportation System

Long March 7 rocket transferred vertically to the launch pad in Wenchang, south China's Hainan Province, June 22, 2016. Photo Credit: Xinhua/Zeng Tao

China has lately revealed its roadmap for space transportation system outlining its ambitious goal to become a world-leading space power by 2045. The program, announced the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), envisions several milestones in the nation’s space industry within next three decades, including the development of reusable launch vehicles and a nuclear-powered space shuttle.

China hopes that the successful implementation of the newly disclosed plan will allow to greatly improve its launch capabilities, enabling large-scale space exploration, asteroid mining and space travel on regular basis. All these goals are planned to be achieved by 2045.

According to the roadmap, Beijing will develop and launch Long March 8, a new medium-lift launch vehicle by 2020. This booster, capable of launching up to 4.5 metric tons into a sun-synchronous orbit (SSO), provide commercial launch services for other countries at lower cost than current rockets.

The country also plans to introduce its super heavy-lift booster, named Long March 9 around 2030. This vehicle, about 360 ft. (110 m tall), will be able to launch more than 100 metric tons into a low-Earth orbit (LEO). China plans to employ this rocket for manned lunar landing flights as well as for robotic space exploration of other planets, including sample return mission to Mars.

One of the most important parts of the roadmap is the reusability of launch vehicles. China intends to debut a suborbital carrier vehicle by 2025 and eyes a reusable carrier rocket by 2035, what would enable space travel for common people.

“By then, common people will be able to take reusable carrier vehicles to travel in space,” Tang Yagang, the director of carrier rocket development at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, was quoted as saying by China News Service.

Moreover, around 2040, China plans to construct various next-generation of rockets and vehicles, including the first nuclear-powered space shuttle. This, according to the roadmap, would make mining on asteroids and space solar power plants possible.

Beijing believes that the realization of the newly announced plan will make the country a global leader in space technology by 2045.

“China will become an all-round world-leading country in space equipment and technology. By then, it will be able to carry out man-computer coordinated space exploration on a large scale,” Wang Liheng, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told China News Service.

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