China lays out its roadmap for space transportation system
China has revealed a roadmap for its space transportation system outlining its goal to become a world-leading space power by 2045. The program, announced by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), envisions several milestones in the nation’s space industry within the next three decades, including the development of reusable launch vehicles and a nuclear-powered space shuttle.
China hopes that the successful implementation of the newly-disclosed plan will greatly improve its launch capabilities. This should enable large-scale space exploration, asteroid mining, and space travel on a more regular basis. All of these goals are planned to be achieved by 2045.
According to the roadmap, Beijing will develop and launch the Long March 8, a new medium-lift launch vehicle by 2020. This booster, capable of launching up to 4.5 metric tons into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO), will provide commercial launch services for other countries at a lower cost than current rockets.
The country also plans to introduce its super-heavy-lift booster, named Long March 9 around 2030. This launch vehicle, about 360 feet (110 meters) tall, should be able to launch more than 100 metric tons into low-Earth orbit (LEO). China plans to employ this rocket for manned lunar landing flights as well as for robotic space exploration of other planets, including a possible sample return mission to Mars.
One of the most important parts of the roadmap is the reusability of launch vehicles. China intends to debut a suborbital carrier vehicle by 2025 and eyes a reusable carrier rocket by 2035, which would enable space travel for common people.
“By then, common people will be able to take reusable carrier vehicles to travel in space,” Tang Yagang, the director of carrier rocket development at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, was quoted as saying by China News Service.
Moreover, around 2040, China plans to construct various next-generation rockets and vehicles, including the first nuclear-powered space shuttle. This, according to the roadmap, would make the mining of asteroids and space solar power plants possible.
Beijing believes that the realization of the newly announced plan will make the country a global leader in space technology by 2045.
“China will become an all-round world-leading country in space equipment and technology. By then, it will be able to carry out man-computer coordinated space exploration on a large scale,” Wang Liheng, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told China News Service.
Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.