Raumfahrt - First look at Chinese rocket Long March 6X that will be able to launch, land and repeat


A model of a reusable Long March 6X at the 20th China International Industrial Fair in Shanghai, September 19, 2018. SAST

A model of a new Chinese Long March launch vehicle which will be able to land its first stage at a fixed point and be reused for future launches has been unveiled in Shanghai.

The 'Long March 6X' is one of the first attempts China is making at developing reusable rockets, having witnessed the game-changing rise of the American SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket which can land and reuse its first stage.

The model was put on display this week at the 20th China International Industrial Fair in Shanghai in an exhibition by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the main contractor for the Chinese space programme.

The Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST), a subsidiary of CASC and maker of launch vehicles and spacecraft, is developing the rocket by adapting the existing expendable Long March 6.

The Long March 6 itself is a 29m-high small launch vehicle based on the 3.35m-diameter boosters developed as a strap-on booster for the Long March 5 heavy-lift launcher, China's largest and most powerful rocket.

Assembly of a Long March 6 launch vehicle.



Assembly of a Long March 6 launch vehicle. SAST

According to a SAST press releasethe Long March 6X, capable of vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) and multiple reuse, will be able to reduce launch costs by around 30 percent. Its first flight is expected in 2021.

Rocket costs are just a part of launch costs, however, with launch tracking, launch site access and assembly on site, insurance and other factors, limiting the impact of rocket reusability.

The Long March 6X (Chang Zheng-6X) model seen above has visible landing legs near the engine and grid fins at the top of the first stage, much like those on the SpaceX Falcon 9, which it uses to guide its reentry and descent and effect a stable landing.

A SpaceX Falcon 9, with visible black landing legs and grid fins.



A SpaceX Falcon 9, with visible black landing legs and grid fins. SpaceX/Elon Musk


More Chinese rocket reusability efforts

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), another CASC subsidiary, is meanwhile working on a larger Long March 8 rocket with similar VTVL capabilities for its first stage and, possibly, boosters.

CALT is seeking to test fly the Long March 8, which is based on the existing Long March 7 with a similar 3.35-metre diameter core, around 2020.

Earlier this month CASC also used a parafoil on the payload fairing for the first time for the launch of the Haiyang-1C satellite, with the aim of improving accuracy of its return to Earth and potentially eventual reusability.

A China National Space Administration (CNSA) official this week said that development of reusability of rocket stages and boosters is mainly related to 'safety', rather than stating the economics of launch as a factor.

Safety most likely refers to the fact that three of China's four most used national launch sites are deep inland, and debris often threatens populated areas, despite precautions, with launches from Xichang proving particularly hazardous.

CASC has stated in a 2017 'space transportation roadmap' outlined last year that it is working towards reusability for all its launchers by the mid-2030s, but these efforts are in their infancy.


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Quelle: gbtimes

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