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China's reusable launch vehicle expected to debut in 2020

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-10-31 15:28

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), a major space contractor, is collaborating with research institutes to develop a reusable launch vehicle and plans to make its maiden flight in 2020, Science and Technology Daily reported.

The reusable launch vehicle can carry large payloads into orbit, return to the earth and be reused many times, said Chen Hongbo, director of the research and development center at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology at CASC.

Chen said this homegrown, reusable launch vehicle features characteristics of both a spacecraft and a space shuttle, and his academy hopes to make the launch vehicle reusable through improving the rocket engine.

He said that the new vehicle will combine its first and second stage in parallel,different from the famous US-made, reusable Falcon 9 launch vehicle that is in a series way. The new vehicle's two stages will be recovered while Falcon 9 can only recover its first stage.

China's reusable launch vehicle is designed to be used over 20 times, Chen said. The cost to launch will be cut to one-fifth of the current price at the initial stage, and even cut to one-tenth in the future.

The pre-flight preparation time of traditional rockets varies from one week to several months, but the reusable launch vehicle will be able to realize daily flight, he said.

An obvious trait is that the new vehicles will have wings, which can help it land on the surface horizontally.

"The reusable launch vehicle will mainly provide service for a 300 to 500 kilometer-high orbit. It can meet the demands of fast, reliable and low-cost space transportation in the future," Chen said.

"For example, it can deliver astronauts and goods to a space station, provide a launch service for military and civilian purposes and even serve space tourism," he said.

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