China says it will use two Long March 10 Carrier rockets replaced a super-heavy Long March 9 to meet the goal of landing a man on the moon by 2030, a change in plan that raises new questions about China’s rocket development and broader space program.
Under the new launch plan, the lunar surface lander and the manned probe would be launched separately and docked with each other to complete the landing in lunar orbit. The arrangement is similar to China’s Tianwen 3 plan to launch an unmanned lander and spacecraft to Mars in the 2030s.
“After demonstration and analysis, China has preliminarily adopted the dock-at-lunar-orbit proposal for its manned moon landing project,” Zhang Hailian, deputy chief engineer of the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), said in an opening. speech At a space summit in Wuhan on July 12.
After the spacecraft arrives with the lander, two astronauts will land on the moon with the lander to conduct scientific work and collect samples, he said. Zhang said that after the tasks are completed, the astronauts will use the lander’s ascent to return to the spacecraft in lunar orbit and return to Earth.
Chinese researchers are currently developing the Long March 10, a new generation of manned spacecraft, a lunar lander, a lunar landing space suit and a manned lunar rover. Zhang’s speech was widely reported by state media, including XinhuaThe Global Times as well as People’s Liberation Army DailyOn July 12 and 13.
when Apollo 11 Launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to the Moon in 1969, a Saturn V rocket was used to carry the spacecraft and lunar lander.
The rocket can lift 130 tons into low Earth orbit and 50 tons into Earth-Moon transfer orbit. Its first stage used five Rocketdyne F-1 The engines, each capable of producing 6,770 kilonewtons (kN) of thrust.
The first phase of the Long March is 10 and the two boosters are 21 YF-100K engines, each capable of delivering 1,250 kN of thrust. The rocket can lift 70 tons into low Earth orbit and 27 tons into Earth-Moon-transfer orbit.
The reusable YF-100K is similar to the YF-100, a copy of the RF-120 developed by KB Pivdenne in Ukraine several decades ago. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, China purchased two RF-120 and several RD-170 engines from the company. The YF-100 contributed to China’s lunar missions in 2019 and 2020.
Using the same technology, the Beijing Aerospace Propulsion Institute, a unit of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation’s (CACIC) No. 6 Research Institute, developed the YF-130 in 2011, which at the time claimed a thrust of 4,800 kN (500 tons). ). Later it modified the engine to YF-135 with 3,600 kN thrust.
Liu Shirang, Head of CASIC No. 6 Research Institute, Said Long March 9 in May 2021 will use 12 YF-130 engines to send astronauts to the Moon by 2030.
Long Lehao, Deputy Chief Designer of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program; Said In June 2021, the Long March 9 will be replaced with 16 YF-135 engines capable of lifting 150 tons to low Earth orbit and 53 tons to Earth-Moon-transfer orbit.
Currently, the YF-130 and YF-135 are still in the laboratory.
Methane fueled rockets
Long said in April 2022 that the March 9 rocket will use 26 methane engines. In February this year, he said, the number of engines in the first stage of the rocket will increase to 30, and the two engines in the second stage will run on methane.
Because methane is cleaner and produces more energy than kerosene, a methane-powered rocket can be easily reused. The fuel is used in SpaceX’s Starship Super Heavy rocket, powered by 33 Raptor engines.
“The design of Long March 9 is now similar to Starship’s rocket,” said a Chinese technical correspondent. Article Published on May 15. “But does this mean that development of the YF-130 is over? No, the YF-130 is almost ready. Don’t waste all your past efforts. “
The author says that putting 30 methane engines together is not without risk, as they may cause resonance problems. He noted that if the methane engines were not suitable, Long March 9 could again use the YF-130 or YF135.
Also a writer based in Fujian obverse The investment in the YF-135 will not be wasted. If the YF-135 is reusable, he says, it will have a cost advantage and could potentially replace the YF-100K in the future.
Some commentators have said the YF-100 is the most plausible choice for China’s lunar mission in the 2030s because China’s methane-engine technology is still immature. Media reports Said On May 12, the CASIC No. 6 Research Institute in Xi’an tested a methane engine with a thrust of 3,600 kN.
On July 12, China successfully launched a medium-sized rocket Zhuque-2, which runs on liquid oxygen and methane. A four-armed rocket TQ-12 The engines can lift 6 tonnes into low earth orbit. A TQ-12 engine can produce only 670 kN of thrust, while a Raptor can hit 2,256 kN.
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