The Chinese space industry has made progress on the development of new rocket engines, including a 500 t-thrust liquid engine and a 150 t-thrust solid rocket engine, both of which are expected to be used to support China’s future manned lunar landing and other deep space exploration missions.
On 1 August, the China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation (CASC) announced that it had successfully tested the combined gas generator and turbopump structure for its 500-tonne class LOX/Kerosene liquid engine. The engine, which had yet been officially named, is expected to be used on China’s future super heavy lift launch vehicle the CZ-9.
CASC began to develop the concept of a super heavy lift launch vehicle comparable to the U.S. Space Launch System (SLS) in capability as early as 2012. The development of the CZ-9 launcher and its 500-t thrust LOX/Kerosene liquid engine has been carried out by the corporation’s two subsidiaries, the Beijing-based China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT, or the 1st Academy) and the Xi’an-based subsidiary the Academy of Aerospace Propulsion Technology (AAPT, or the 6th Academy), respectively.
The CZ-9 was described as a large rocket roughly 100 m in length and 8 to 9 m in diameter, with a lift-off thrust of 5,200 to 5,500 tonnes. The launcher rocket will be capable of delivering 130 tonnes of payload to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), exactly the same as the heavier Block 2 version of the SLS. The CZ-9 is expected to support China’s future manned lunar landing mission, currently expected to take place around 2030, as well as other deep space missions.
Just a day later, on 2 August, CASC announced that another of its subsidiaries, the Xi’an-based Academy of Aerospace Solid Propulsion Technology (AASPT, or the 4th Academy), had successfully carried out the ground test firing of a 3 m-diameter, 2-segment solid rocket engine, the largest solid rocket ever developed in China.
Despite having begun to develop the solid rocket technology as early as the late 1950s, China has been a relative latecomer in the field of large solid rocket engines. While the U.S., Europe and India had all developed large solid rocket boosters of over 3 m diameter, China had only developed 2 m diameter solid rocket previously. CASC had announced the plan to develop a 3 m-diameter, 5-segment solid rocket during the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan. The rocket can be used either as strap-on boosters for the future CZ-9 launch vehicle, or as a standalone small-load launcher.