Executive Intelligence Review


China Pushing Rocket Engine Development for Manned Moon Missions

March 12, 2018 (EIRNS)—Chinese rocket experts are pushing to accelerate the development and testing of challenging new rocket engines, which will be needed for its manned missions to the Moon. Deputy of the National People’s Congress, and head of the Sixth Research Institute of the China Aerospace and Technology Corporation, Liu Zhirang, told the Global Times yesterday that the normal cycle of R&D for a new main rocket engine is about 10 to 15 years, but China should advance that development. Military expert Song Zhongping explained that while the engine development can take that long, the R&D of a new type of rocket requires less—about 5 to 10 years. So, if the rocket “involves a new type of engine, it would delay the launch.”

The Long March 9 rocket that will take astronauts to the Moon is a great challenge, because it cannot simply be scaled up from China’s current family of liquid-fueled rockets. One challenge is that China currently has no facilities to test an engine that size. Liu stated that “the current test and verification equipment cannot satisfy requirements” of the new engine.

“As a result, only simulations and scaled-down tests can be done for some technology and hardware. This increases the degree of difficulty for the program.”

The new rocket will have an engine that can produce Four times the thrust of its largest, the Long March 5 rocket. The Saturn V-class Long March 9 will be able to take 140 tons of payload to low Earth orbit, (more than the Saturn V), and send 50 tons to the Moon, which amounts to six times the payload capability of the Long March 5.

Chinese R&D for the new engines continues, awaiting formal government approval for the manned missions to the Moon.