China claims its new rocket engines have two times more thrust than NASA's Orion
China continues to make progress in its ambitions as a world leader in space technologies.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC) claimed on Tuesday, September 6, that a ground test for its latest rocket engine was a "complete success."
The South China Morning Post claims the new engine is twice as powerful as the engine NASA is using in its Artemis I mission to the moon, though it is referring to the RL10 engine used to boost the Orion spacecraft once in orbit rather than the four RS-25s on the core stage that will help lift NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) to orbit.
The 'world's largest closed expander cycle engine test run'
The engine will produce a 25-ton-force, according to the report, and it will be used on China's Long March 9 rockets to propel astronauts to the moon. China's Long March rockets are a family of non-reusable rockets named after an event that occurred during the Chinese Civil War in 1934.
CASTC claimed the test, which took place Monday, September 5, is "the world's largest closed expander cycle engine test run" and a major breakthrough for the space industry.
Closed expander cycle rocket engines have great potential for spaceflight, though manufacturers have so far faced issues with scaling the engines. They use waste heat to convert a small amount of liquid hydrogen fuel into high-pressure gas. This makes the turbines raise the pressure of hydrogen and oxygen in the fuel pumps. The gas then enters the top of the combustion chamber and is used as fuel, reducing the requirement for extra gas and making the engines more efficient.
China and Russia aim for the moon
China and Russia have teamed up to build their own lunar orbital station after Russia opted out of joining NASA's lunar Gateway program last year. They both aim to get astronauts on the moon before 2030. Russia also recently announced it would ditch the International Space Station after it meets its current contractual obligations.
Though Russia and China will continue to work together on their space endeavors, the former is increasingly losing partners, having broken ties with NASA and the European Space Agency, citing sanctions levied against its aerospace industry following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
NASA, meanwhile, is working on getting SLS to orbit for its Artemis I mission. That uncrewed mission will send the space agency's Orion spacecraft around the moon and back. Artemis II will then carry out the same journey with astronauts aboard, and Artemis III will send humans back to the lunar surface. NASA is currently aiming to carry out its Artemis III mission by 2025, though that is dependent on the success of the missions that come before. At the time of writing, NASA has scrubbed two Artemis I launch attempts, and SLS is unlikely to launch before October.
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