Space plane tak­ing shape

New con­cept opens range of pos­si­bil­i­ties for high-speed com­mer­cial travel, tourism

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Chi­nese space engi­neers will join hands to de­velop a next-gen­er­a­tion craft with enor­mous busi­ness po­ten­tial for com­mer­cial launches and space tourism, ac­cord­ing to an in­dus­try con­fer­ence.

As com­pe­ti­tion in the in­ter­na­tional aerospace field be­comes in­creas­ingly fierce, Chi­nese space engi­neers have reached a con­sen­sus that the new craft is of great im­por­tance to China’s avi­a­tion and space sec­tors, a state­ment re­leased after the First China Com­binedAerospace Ve­hi­cle De­vel­op­ment Fo­rum in Bei­jing said on Tues­day.

The cut­ting-edge craft will have many op­por­tu­ni­ties in the govern­ment-backed space and busi­ness sec­tors, so Chi­nese re­searchers have de­cided to work to­gether to de­velop the tech­nol­ogy, it said.

More than 300 of­fi­cials, busi­ness lead­ers and ex­perts took part in the event hosted by the China Academy of Launch Ve­hi­cle Tech­nol­ogy.

Acom­bined-cy­cle aerospace ve­hi­cle is pro­pelled by a com­bi­na­tion of tur­bine, ram­jet and rocket en­gines, space ex­perts said.

The craft uses tur­bine en­gines, like those in­stalled on jet­lin­ers, or rocket-based com­bined-cy­cle en­gines, when it takes off from a con­ven­tional run­way.

After it reaches a cer­tain speed, the ram­jet will be ac­ti­vated to thrust the space­craft into the strato­sphere or to the next layer of the Earth’s at­mos­phere, the meso­sphere. At this point, rocket en­gines will be used to put the ve­hi­cle into or­bit.

Engi­neers at the China In­sti­tute of Com­bined-Cy­cle Aerospace Ve­hi­cle Tech­nol­ogy have started pre­lim­i­nary re­search on a re­us­able, com­bined-cy­cle space plane. Cur­rently, they are work­ing on key tech­nolo­gies for such craft, ac­cord­ing to the China Academy of LaunchVe­hi­cle Tech­nol­ogy, which ad­min­is­ters the in­sti­tute.

A se­nior re­searcher at the in­sti­tute, who wished to be iden­ti­fied only as Liu, said that the United States and Bri­tain have stud­ied com­bined-cy­cle propul­sion for a long time and are work­ing to­ward re­us­able space planes for com­mer­cial pay­load launches as well as space tourism.

“This kind of craft has sev­eral ad­van­tages — it has a low op­er­a­tional cost and high re­li­a­bil­ity, can con­duct take­offs and land­ings us­ing a con­ven­tional air­port and is suit­able for per­form­ing sched­uled flights as a pas­sen­ger space plane,” he said.

“The rapid growth in com­mer­cial satel­lite launch ser­vices and space tourism of­fers a promis­ing mar­ket for the com­bined-cy­cle space plane,” Liu said.

“More­over, it can re­al­ize the as­pi­ra­tion of ul­tra­fast air travel. Pas­sen­gers will be able to get to any­place on the globe within only sev­eral hours in the fu­ture.”

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