China testing own reusable rocket technologies
BEIJING, China is working on its own reusable rocket technologies, a source close to the research told Xinhua Thursday.
Chinese experts have already built a prototype model to test theories on the reusable rocket booster's landing subsystems. They have completed "experimental verifications" using "multiple parachutes" supposedly attached to the booster, a source with China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technologies (CALT), developer of China's Long March rocket series, said.
"The experiment has laid solid foundation for the realization of reusable rockets in the country," the source said.
The remarks came weeks after the reusable main-stage booster of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket made a historic landing at sea earlier this month.
Ma Zhibin, deputy director of CALT's aerospace department also confirmed to Xinhua Thursday in a separate interview that Chinese scientists are working on reusable rockets, although the technologies they employ may differ from those of SpaceX.
"There is of course more than one way to do this ... I believe we could see some serious results during the 13th Five-Year Plan period," he said, referring to the five years between 2016 and 2020.
Still, Ma said it could take a considerably longer time before reusable launch vehicles could replace the current expendable rockets for good.
"This is not a one-day job, making rockets retrievable and reusable," agreed rocket scientist Han Houjian, a designer of the Long March-1 rocket which carried China's first satellite Dongfanghong-1 into space in 1970.
"Even (SpaceX founder Elon) Musk admitted that they had to reduce the payload of Falcon-9 to make it (the sea landing) happen," he said.
"The current expendable rockets will continue to serve as our main launch vehicles to space for now," he said.