China Advances Lunar Ambitions with Successful Test of New Rocket Engine System

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By Lydia Amazouz Published on June 15, 2024 10:00
China Advances Lunar Ambitions With Successful Test Of New Rocket Engine System

China has successfully tested a new engine system designed for its future lunar missions, marking a significant milestone in its ambitious space program.

This ground test, conducted on June 14, 2024, is a pivotal step towards the nation's goal of establishing a research base on the moon by 2030.

The new engine system, composed of three YF-100K engines, is slated for installation on the first stage of the Long March-10 rocket, which is expected to carry over 27 tonnes of payload to the Earth-to-moon transfer orbit.

Groundbreaking Test for the Long March-10 Rocket

The test was the largest-scale engine test ever conducted for a Chinese rocket under development. During the test, the engines generated a ground thrust of 382 tonnes, significantly higher than previous tests and about 1.6 times greater than the largest-scale tests conducted before.

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The Long March-10 rocket, designed to stand at 92.5 meters tall and weigh approximately 2,189 tonnes at liftoff, boasts a powerful thrust of 2,678 tonnes. This remarkable thrust capability will enable it to carry heavier payloads to the moon compared to its predecessor, the Long March-5, which could carry over 8 tonnes of payload during the ongoing Chang'e-6 mission. The Long March-10's design reflects China's commitment to enhancing its launch capabilities for more ambitious space missions.

According to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the propulsion system test verified the compatibility between the sub-level boost delivery system and the engine, the propellant refueling process, the multi-engine parallel transmission of force, and the environmental characteristics.

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"This test marks the Long March 10 series carrier rocket entering the fast lane for large-scale ground test development," stated a CASC representative. The successful test of the YF-100K engines, which are critical for the first stage of the Long March-10, represents a significant engineering achievement and sets the stage for more complex tests and eventual mission readiness.

Strategic Importance and Future Tests

The Long March-10 rocket is a critical component of China's manned moon landing mission, designed to send both spacecraft and moon landers. Its impressive specifications include a total length of 92.5 meters, a liftoff weight of 2,189 tonnes, and a carrying capacity of no less than 27 tonnes to the Earth-moon transfer orbit.

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These capabilities mark a significant upgrade from previous Chinese rockets, enabling more substantial payloads to be transported to the moon, which is essential for establishing a sustainable lunar presence.

The rocket's powerful first stage, driven by three YF-100K engines, is specifically engineered to handle the immense stresses of launch and to provide the necessary thrust to break free of Earth's gravitational pull. The YF-100K engines, known for their high performance and reliability, are a key element in achieving the ambitious payload capacities of the Long March-10.

The next step in the development of the Long March-10 includes a second ground test of the first-stage propulsion system, scheduled to take place soon. This test will further verify other operational conditions, ensuring the system's robustness and reliability under various scenarios. The successful completion of these tests is crucial for laying a solid foundation for the manned moon landing project, with preparations for the maiden flight expected to start in 2027.

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Broader Implications for China's Space Program

This successful test is not only a technological triumph but also a strategic advancement for China's space ambitions. The new high-thrust engine and the Long March-10 carrier rocket are part of a broader effort to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon. This development aligns with China's plans to enhance its capabilities in space exploration and its strategic objectives for lunar research and resource utilization.

Apart from the Long March-10, China is also actively developing other spacecraft and lunar landers to support its manned moon landing mission. The progress with the high-thrust engine is a testament to China's growing expertise and commitment to leading in the space exploration arena. These advancements not only bolster China's standing in the international space community but also contribute to the global knowledge base and technological progress in space exploration.

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The Long March-10 rocket, with its enhanced capabilities, is poised to play a crucial role in a variety of missions, including transporting taikonauts and cargo to the space station. The rocket's non-booster configuration can handle missions to low Earth orbit, with a carrying capacity of no less than 14 tonnes, demonstrating its versatility and strategic importance in China's broader space ambitions.

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An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

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