Steady Progress for Chinese Manned Moon Mission
The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology is working on the development of a super-heavy launcher, tentatively called the Long March 9, that will be critical to the success of a Chinese manned moon mission.
Li Jinghong, deputy chief designer of the Long March 3A at the academy, cited technical estimates stating that the Long March 9 will be capable of launching up to four times the mass to orbit that the Long March 5.
That's a big rocket.
And now, working with other Chinese institutes, the agency has announced that it has developed a super-large interstage ring to be used to connect stages of that rocket.
Announced in a news release by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, the country's major space contractor, it's a key development -- if no other reason because it demonstrates that China has developed the manufacturing techniques necessary for the construction.
Currently, the rockets that China uses are all built with interstage rings that are constructed in sections before being assembled.
In contrast, the ring on the Long March 9 will be made through a casting method that produces it in one piece.
The Long March 9 Rocket
The Long March 9's technical specifications have still to be disclosed, but the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology has already begun preliminary research and some information has been made available.
According to sources at the academy, it plans to take up to five years to design and develop a liquid oxygen/kerosene engine with 460 metric tons of thrust and a oxygen/liquid hydrogen engine with 220 tons of thrust.
The rocket will have a launch weight of 3,000 tons and is scheduled to make its maiden flight around 2030, the sources said, adding that it will play a key role in helping to land astronauts on the moon.
But Li Tongyu, head of aerospace products at the academy, said its diameter and height will be much greater than those of the Long March 5, which is undergoing final tests and will make its first flight soon. The Long March 9's thrust will also be much stronger, Li said.
Our current launch vehicles, including the Long March 5, will be able to undertake the country's space activities planned for the next 10 years, but they will not have the capacity to carry out the nation's long-term space programs.
Li Jinghong also hinted that the Long March 9 will not be used solely for lunar missions.
The implication is that this super-heavy launcher will power missions for deep-space exploration, and even, as Tian Yulong, secretary-general of the China National Space Administration, said, a Mars exploration program.
Source: Xinhua News