China is developing a launch vehicle whose first stage they can reuse, and the vehicle will first launch in 2020. Speaking at a space conference in Harbin, China Academy of Launch Vehicle’s Long Lehao revealed that the academy has plans for a Long March 8 medium launcher.
According to the initial plan, they wanted to build Long March 8 with an increased capability to meet both government and global launch market demands. They planned to make a vehicle that can launch up to 4.5 metric tons to a 700-kilometer orbit.
The Long March 8 will adapt designs from several existing rockets. The vertical takeoff and vertical landing would base on the models of the Falcon 9 from SpaceX. The core design will also base on that of the Long March 7, a rocket that has a core of 3.35-meter-diameter.
The second stage of the Long March 8 will base on the design of the previous Long March 3A. Long March 8 will also use two propellant boosters similar to those of the Long March 11.
China has been looking at the prospect of recovery their rockets for some time now. The country tested the probability of using parachutes to recover stage vehicles. The Shanghai Academy for Spacecraft Technology (SAST) has revealed that it intends to adopt the Long March 6 and make the first stage reusable in the 2020s.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) published a space transport roadmap which indicated that the corporation has a goal of making all its launch vehicles fully reusable by 2035. The roadmap also talked about plans to reduce launch cost. They also want to develop a launch technology that would prevent rocket debris from falling on earth.
In the past, rocket debris has fallen at populated areas from three launch areas that are close to populated cities in China.
Even though China has plans of lowering cost through reusability of a rocket, it is sceptical about the possibility of reducing launch cost through reusability.
Lan Tianyi, the founder of Ultimate Blue Nebula, a space consultancy firm in China, said that if China achieves the goal of recovering launch vehicle to reduce cost, the country would be the second space power to achieve that goal. He also said that SpaceX is the only firm that owns the technology and China would have to wait to see if recovery launch vehicles would reduce cost.