Weight­less tourism just 4 years away

Chi­naRocket is plan­ning com­mer­cial voyages to the meso­sphere in 2020

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO LEI in Zhuhai, Guang­dong prov­ince zhaolei@chinadaily.com.cn

By 2025, a 100-ton reusable space­craft will be pro­duced to send up to 20 pas­sen­gers to an or­bit as high as 140 km above the ground.”

Han Qing­ping, pres­i­dent of Chi­naRocket Co Ltd in Bei­jing

Want to have a birth­day party 140 kilo­me­ters above the ground, or dance weight­lessly with your loved one? Just wait for a few years.

These out-of-this-world ex­pe­ri­ences will be pos­si­ble, ac­cord­ing to the plans of China’s newly es­tab­lished com­mer­cial space com­pany, which ex­pects to start pro­vid­ing high-at­mos­phere and space jour­neys for peo­ple with enough cash as early as 2020.

Han Qing­ping, pres­i­dent of Chi­naRocket Co Ltd in Bei­jing, said the com­pany first will de­velop a 10-met­ric-ton reusable space­craft and use it to ferry three to five trav­el­ers to a height of 80 km for a new per­spec­tive on the mother planet and ex­pe­ri­ence weight­less­ness. That is the up­per part of the meso­sphere, higher than jets and bal­loons can travel, but just be­low the height where satel­lites fly. No prices were given. “By 2025, a 100-ton reusable space­craft will be pro­duced to send up to 20 pas­sen­gers to an or­bit as high as 140 km above the ground,” he said. That’s into the ther­mo­sphere, and is high enough to be con­sid­ered space.

“Fur­ther­more, we will be­gin to use the 100-ton ve­hi­cle to per­form intercontinental sched­uled flight and long com­mer­cial space­flight around 2030.”

Han made the re­marks at the New Power of Space In­dus­try Fo­rum on Mon­day in Zhuhai, Guang­dong prov­ince, one day be­fore the 11th China In­ter­na­tional Avi­a­tion and Aero­space Ex­hi­bi­tion, com­monly known as Zhuhai Air Show.

His com­pany was founded in mid-Oc­to­ber by China Academy of Launch Ve­hi­cle Tech­nol­ogy, the coun­try’s largest de­vel­oper of bal­lis­tic mis­siles and car­rier rock­ets. The academy it­self is a sub­or­di­nate of the larger China Aero­space Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Corp, the State-owned main con­trac­tor for the coun­try’s space pro­gram.

Dur­ing the air show, China-Rocket will sign a launch ser­vice con­tract with Chang­guang Satel­lite Tech­nol­ogy Co Ltd in Changchun, cap­i­tal of Jilin prov­ince, a ma­jor maker of com­mer­cial re­mote-sens­ing satel­lites in China, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany. No fur­ther in­for­ma­tion was im­me­di­ately dis­closed.

Tang Ya­gang, deputy head of CALT’s space ac­tiv­ity de­part­ment, said China Rocket will of­fer four types of rock­ets to the com­mer­cial launch mar­ket, cov­er­ing all or­bits suit­able for com­mer­cial space mis­sions.

In China, a com­mer­cial space mis­sion gen­er­ally refers to a space ac­tiv­ity paid for by an en­tity other than a Chi­nese gov­ern­ment or a mil­i­tary agency. Ear­lier re­ports quoted ex­perts as pre­dict­ing that by 2020, the­mar­ket value of com­mer­cial space ac­tiv­i­ties in China will reach 30 bil­lion yuan ($4.6 bil­lion) each year.

“Three of the four rock­ets are off-the-shelf mod­els be­cause they are based on the cur­rent Long March se­ries. The two liq­uid-fu­eled rock­ets will launch pay­loads to sun syn­chro­nous or­bit, low Earth or­bit and geosyn­chronous or­bit. The solid-fu­eled rocket will lift satel­lites to sun-syn­chro­nous or­bit,” he ex­plained. Sun-syn­chro­nous or­bit can keep a satel­lite in con­stant day­light, whereas geosyn­chronous or­bit matches the Earth’s ro­ta­tion.

“We are also de­vel­op­ing a new type of liq­uid-fu­eled, medium-lift rocket specif­i­cally for the com­mer­cial launch mar­ket. It will use pol­lu­tion free pro­pel­lants. The maiden flight is sched­uled to take place in 2018.”

Han said his com­pany plans to go public around 2020, adding it will share its fa­cil­i­ties and equip­ment with other en­ter­prises to boost the growth of the whole sec­tor.

Hao Zhaop­ing, vice-pres­i­dent of CALT, said China Rocket will strive to tap the com­mer­cial launch mar­ket be­cause com­mer­cial space ac­tiv­i­ties have be­gun to rep­re­sent the de­vel­op­ment trend of the in­dus­try.

“In ad­di­tion to com­mer­cial launches, the com­pany will also build launch fa­cil­i­ties and space-themed parks,” he said. “We are cre­at­ing a com­mer­cial space sphere in China, which will turn into a sig­nif­i­cant part of the na­tion’s space in­dus­try.”

Be­side car­rier rock­ets, the academy is de­sign­ing a com­bined-cy­cle space­ship pro­pelled by a com­bi­na­tion of tur­bine en­gines, ram­jets and rocket en­gines. The fu­tur­is­tic space ve­hi­cle will take off and land on an air­port run­way and will carry out space tourism and ul­tra­fast pas­sen­ger flight, ac­cord­ing to re­searchers at CALT.

In­ter­na­tion­ally, sev­eral pri­vate space en­ter­prises such as Space X and Or­bital Sci­ences are de­vel­op­ing space ve­hi­cles in a bid for busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties in space tourism and pas­sen­ger and cargo trans­porta­tion.

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