China with the Dream of a Reusable Launch Vehicle

The Long March 8 of China is one of the future launchers off the country that might have a first stage which is reusable as stated by the designer of the rocket. Even though much details have not been disclosed by the Chinese, experts expect the rocket would be an expendable one.

The initial project will be having a launch vehicle two-stage with 2 or 4 additional solid boosters. With such a configuration the March 8 will have the capability to lift about 4.5 metric tons of load into an orbit (Sun-synchronous). But more ambitious plans for the March 8 was discussed by the chief designer at CILT (China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology), Long Lehao in the space conference held in Harbin, on 24th April 2018.

As per the Xinhua press agency, Long said that he expects to retrieve the boosters and the first stage of the March 8 through vertical landing and if their plan succeeds the partly reusable rocket will be able to provide commercial launch services around the globe. The Chinese industry is trying to develop low-cost space vehicles to allow a large scale exploration of space and to promote the space industry.

The reusability of the rocket is an important aspect of the country’s safety also. About 20 orbital launches are conducted every year and this rocket could break all the records as there are about 35 missions in the launch manifest. The last flight was on 3rd May 2018 when the Long March 3B dropped of the APStar-6C satellite.

The recent Long March 2, 3, 4 rockets use toxic propellants as fuel and hence cannot be reused. But new technologies are being developed to control the fall of the remains of the rocket for safety. Also, the technology used by the Chinese will be entirely different from that used for the Falcon 9 booster by the SpaceX. However, the details of the technology have not been disclosed.

The Long March 8 is expected to be launched around the year 2021. The reusable first stage of the booster is China’s first step to achieve its main goal of launching fully reusable rockets by the year 2035. And another important step to achieve this goal will be the development and launch of a reusable suborbital spacecraft by the year of 2025 and a rocket that has 2 reusable stages by the year 2030.