China's developing rocket more powerful than Falcon Heavy

By Zhang Liying
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 8, 2018
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China is developing a heavy-lift launch vehicle with a planned low Earth orbit (LEO) payload capacity of 140 tons, much higher than that of the Falcon Heavy whose launch on Tuesday captured world attention.

Long Lehao, academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering, chief designer of launch vehicle series at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology and vice chief designer of China’s first lunar exploration program. [Photo/VCG]

"Preliminary progress has been made in technological research on the Long March-9, and official approval of the project is expected," said Long Lehao, chief designer of launch vehicle series at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology and vice chief designer of China's first lunar exploration program.

"Given China's existing technologies, the project is entirely possible to achieve completion within 10 years after official approval."

According to the academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, if launched as scheduled, the Long March-9 is likely to be among the world's most powerful rockets.

The three versions of the Space Launch System (SLS) launch vehicle being developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will feature payload capacities of 70, 105 and 130 tons respectively, all smaller than that of the Long March-9 rocket.

Long doubted the definition of the Falcon Heavy as "a super heavy-lift rocket", explaining: "The heavy-lift rockets launched before represented by America's Saturn V and the Soviet Union's 'Energy' all have LEO payloads of no less than 100 tons. In this sense, Falcon Heavy, with a carrying capacity of 63.8 tons can hardly be qualified as 'a super heavy-lift rocket'."

The greatest significance of Falcon Heavy is that it has made big headway in lowering the cost of heavy-lift launch missions largely due to its reusable technologies, Long noted.

With developments in past decades, the American aerospace industry has established a sound infrastructure, which provides a foundation for private companies like SpaceX to deliver achievements within a short period of time. However, China has acquired relatively advanced launch vehicle technology, and the gap between China and the U.S. in this regard is narrowing, he added.

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