China is reportedly developing a super-powerful rocket capable of launching heavier payloads into low orbit than NASA, Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
As per the report, Long Lehao, a senior official at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said that the Chinese Long March-9 rocket, which is currently under development, will be able to carry 140 tonnes into low-Earth orbit extending out to 1,200 miles above the Earth’s surface, by the year 2030.
This means that the new Chinese rocket will be capable of carrying more load than the European Space Agency’s Ariane 5 rocket, which can handle to 20 tonnes, and Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy that can handle payloads of up to 64 tonnes. The Long March-9 rocket will also be powerful than NASA’s strongest craft, the Space Launch System, which can carry almost around 130 tonnes of weight. The Space Launch System is due to become operational in 2020.
The Long March-9 would have a core stage measuring 10 meters (33 feet) in diameter and boast four powerful boosters, each with a diameter of five meters. According to Lehao, the rocket could be used in performing deep space exploration, manned lunar landings, or for even constructing a space-based solar power plant.
Notably, China is also developing a new reusable space rocket, the Long March-8 carrier rocket, which is expected to make its maiden flight in 2021. The reusable rocket’s first stage and boosters will be retrieved after a vertical landing.
Lehao added that China’s aerospace industry is working to develop low-cost vehicles that can enter space expeditiously to support large-scale space exploration missions in future and promote a commercial space industry.
China is currently investing a huge sum of money into its military-run space programme to get its own crewed space station up by 2022 and to send humans to the Moon in the near future. The Chinese space agency also has plans to build a base on the moon.