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Space China

China Plans to Also Launch Reusable Spaceplanes by 2020 (arstechnica.com) 92

Slashdot reader hackingbear writes: According to a statement from China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, China's reusable spaceplane will launch in 2020. The spaceplane will be launched vertically by a winged rocket to orbit and each of them will be returned to the ground horizontally, according to Chinese media reports. The system is designed to be reusable in 24 hours and for at least 20 times, cutting launch costs to 1/10 of the current price... "Currently China is developing its own reusable earth-to-orbit space vehicles that can take off and land horizontally," Liu Shiquan, vice director of the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation, said. "We have already finished several crucial ground tests for engines and [other key components], yielding remarkable achievements."
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China Plans to Also Launch Reusable Spaceplanes by 2020

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  • I predict that their also launching capabilities will be unsurpassed.

    • I predict that their also launching capabilities will be unsurpassed.

      Well, it'll be interesting to see if their 'reusable spaceplane' design is a deathtrap like the US space shuttle was.

      • Does the shuttle really qualify as a spaceplane though? Seems like the definition requires "acting as an aircraft in atmosphere", while everything I've heard of the shuttle suggests it flew more like a brick.... :-D

  • SpaceX and Blue Origin are much more likely to pull this off than the Chinese.

    Aren't they going to the moon [bgr.com] too?

    With the Chinese, it's not precisely the same thing as when a tinpot dictator spouts off with some improbable future outcome, but it sure is reminiscent.

    • When the Soviets started Sputnik, they were just 10 years beyond german WWII technology.
      When the USA sent people to the moon, they where 20 years beyond german WWII technology.

      No idea which point in technology advancement we want to assign China at the moment. But technology wise they are minimum 30 beyond the moon technology of the USA. Probably a decade more. Considering that the moon crew vehicle, landers etc. had less processing power than a toaster ... everything can now bought on the world market.

      • Your esimates are well thought out. China, though, is a yet a great imitator and an unproven innovator.

        I have high hopes for Humanity, but I also fear that instead of exploiting space exploration for the greater good of mankind, we are on the precipice of exploiting it for military advantage.

  • Despite the photo in the article having some kind of astronaut-looking person in it, I hope they're not wasting $/effort on trying to put people in space.

    For any satellite or cargo mission in the foreseeable future, there is absolutely no need to have a person in space, and doing so just increases the costs / risks and decreases the useful load of what has to go up there.

    Aside from going to Mars / putting a person on Mars, there really isn't any need for humans to be in space at this point. As a c
    • Yes, that's what internet space buffs always say. It flies in the face of the experience of the space program to date, but it's easy to say sitting behind a keyboard.

    • Maybe they want a new way to take people to their space station?

    • As of last summer, the ISS has given us thousands of manhours of zero-G experience by 222 people. This is hardly baking soda volcanos.

    • Aside from the glory factor, there's no need for people. And while maybe for some countries that's still necessary, for a country like China -- guys, we already believe you.

      Hey, now give me a reason for putting anything in space at all, ever.

      Today, if we were all living in say Europe, we could use the argument, demanding robot oceangoing ships because there's no need for people to do worldwide exploring - stay at home and let the drones and robot ships do the work. Building ships and planes for meatbags is too expensive, and what's the point? We have to fix the problems in Europe before the expense of sending people to explore new lands that might not be of any use anyhow.

      • Hey, now give me a reason for putting anything in space at all, ever.

        GPS, telecommunication, earth observing sciences, weather forecasting, mapping, espionage, to name just a handful of obvious reasons.

        what is the point of exploring the moons of Jupiter if we plan to never ever leave earth,

        It's interesting to see what's out there.

  • by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Sunday November 05, 2017 @08:17PM (#55495997)

    Nothing fundamentally wrong with a fully re-usable space plane but the 2020 launch date would imply that they are very far along. If so, I'm surprised no design information has leaked out. They should already be testing full scale gliding models etc.

    I hope its real and they have just been keeping it hush hush: the more human capability there is to do space, the happier I am. I'll believe it though when I see some pictures of actual hardware .

    • There are many design and scaled models leaked on the Chinese web, like this [baidu.com], this [ifeng.com], and this [sina.com.cn]. Do not assume if you don't read Chinese and really know nothing about China.

      • Thank you for the links.

        I've also seen the old US reusable spaceplane models - you can still find some in the Smithsonian and other museums. We also had dynosaur, and the various lifting body craft. Sill we never built a real one. (unless you count the partially-reusuable shuttle).

        They are also not making a big deal about it in their internal museums - at lest nothing in the space section of the Shanghai technology museum a couple of years back.

        I'm not doubting that the Chinese are working on it - just the

    • It takes time to translate all the stolen documentation into Chinese then re-source the materials. Google translate isn't quite good enough for this task yet.

      • The Chinese certainly aren't stealing space technology from us these days......

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Actually Baidu Translate does a much better job with Chinese than Google does.

        You should be careful with that accusation. Same thing was said about Japan, and then suddenly Japanese cars and electronics were better than the western ones and they were the ones doing all the innovation. It's already happening with China - European car manufacturers who missed the EV boat are now buying in Chinese technology and parts to catch up. Same with renewable energy, everyone just assumed Chinese products were crap and

    • by hawk ( 1151 )

      It seems to me I heard similar plans, with similar cost claims, about forty years ago . . .

      Took a little less than a decade from design approval to launch.

      hawk

  • It's going on near a decade that they haven't flown a manned mission. In the mean time, the Russians have kept flying and we have one reusable capsule that has flown a dozen times and is about to get its manned rating from NASA and two more in development to the tune of billions of dollars already spent and metal having been cut. Chinese? Not so much.
  • Why would you want to launch horizontally, regarding (presumably) a second vehicle under development? It just doesn't seem like you make any meaningful improvements, unless you are small and being dropped from a plane at 50,000 feet

    • I figure there's some kind of translation error:

      "Currently China is developing its own reusable earth-to-orbit space vehicles that can take off and land horizontally,"

      I assume they mean the rockets will take off and then land horizontally. The concept is somewhat like the Space Shuttle--the rocket will go up vertically, release the satellite/space-plane, and rather than falling back and burning up, crashing someplace, or doing a controlled landing (like SpaceX), it will glide like the Space Shuttle and be remote piloted like the Buran back to an airfield where it will land horizontally.

      That would be impressive to see.

    • As far as reaching orbit, it doesn't much matter. The altitude is easy. It's getting orbital speed that's the hard part. If they figure they can get velocity faster by using lift to counteract gravity, thereby saving engine thrust to use for velocity, that could make sense. On the other hand, getting into lower air pressure in the first 60 seconds will help acceleration.

      • If they figure they can get velocity faster by using lift to counteract gravity, thereby saving engine thrust to use for velocity, that could make sense

        The problem is that the wings add extra mass that also needs to be accelerated, which could negate all the savings.

        • The wings are already there for landing. By also using wings for takeoff, the craft can use it's much more efficient jet engines to reach hypersonic speeds, saving the rocket engine for when it's too high to get any oxygen from the air. That reduces the weight of fuel required, as well as potentially piping, pumps, etc.

          • the craft can use it's much more efficient jet engines to reach hypersonic speeds, saving the rocket engine for when it's too high to get any oxygen from the air. That reduces the weight of fuel required, as well as potentially piping, pumps, etc.

            Less fuel, but you need two kinds of engines, which only adds more piping, pumps, etc, plus the dead mass of the extra engines. At least the extra fuel you carry will be burned, reducing mass as you go.

    • Why would you want to launch horizontally, regarding (presumably) a second vehicle under development? It just doesn't seem like you make any meaningful improvements, unless you are small and being dropped from a plane at 50,000 feet

      Eventually, all orbital shots are done horizontally, as you need horizontal speed to stay in orbit. Rockets just go striaght up inorder to get above the atmosphere first. Being launched by a second plane at 50,000 feet or so saves about 5% of the fuel costs of a rocket and when going to orbital velocities, one doesn't need much "vertical" velocity as the ground will drop off with "horizontal' travel quickly under the accelerations normally needed. The idea of a plane concept is that it can use atmospheric o

  • Well, if nothing else, the speed with which China meets its objectives will serve to highlight the strength of its outstanding corporate espionage sector.

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