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China Conducts Static Fire Test Of Future Moon Rocket Engine

China has carried out a static fire test of the first stage of the Long March 10 rocket. This test, a major milestone in China's lunar exploration efforts, took place in the Fengtai district of Beijing.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Mon Jun 17 2024Written by Zac Aubert

In a step towards its ambitious goal of landing astronauts on the moon before 2030, China has carried out a static fire test of the first stage of the Long March 10 rocket. This test, a major milestone in China's lunar exploration efforts, took place in the Fengtai district of Beijing.

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) announced via its WeChat channel that the test stage "started normally, operated steadily, and shut down on schedule."

This crucial test was conducted by the Institute 101 of the Sixth Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), China's main space contractor.

The Long March 10 first stage test article was equipped with three YF-100K kerosene-liquid oxygen engines. While the full rocket stage will utilize seven engines, the test was limited to three due to the capacity constraints of the test stand. Despite this limitation, the test was considered a complete success, with the simultaneous firing of all three engines.

"The test is basically a comprehensive verification of our first-stage...It was a complete success, laying a solid foundation for our subsequent research and development and the realization of our entire manned lunar exploration program." - Xu Hongping, CASC Engineer

This test also validated several critical technologies, including the use of common bulkheads to reduce the rocket's weight, the propellant filling process, and the electrostatic servo mechanism. These advancements are integral to the rocket’s performance and reliability.

A second first-stage power system test is planned for the near future to further assess other operational conditions, as stated by China’s human spaceflight agency, CMSEO.

The Long March 10 rocket, designed to carry astronauts to the moon, will consist of three stages and measure 92.5 meters in length. The first stage will feature three cores and will weigh 2,189 tons at liftoff, generating a thrust of about 2,678 tons. The rocket is expected to carry at least 27 tons to an Earth-moon transfer orbit.

China’s lunar mission strategy involves two Long March 10 launches: one for the Mengzhou crew spacecraft and another for the Lanyue lunar lander. These spacecraft will rendezvous in lunar orbit, allowing two astronauts to descend to the lunar surface for a six-hour mission before returning to Earth with their colleague.

“The development of new-generation crewed rockets can greatly enhance our country’s ability to enter space and help the Chinese land on the moon. In addition, some of its technological breakthroughs can drive the development of our entire aerospace industry and will be a considerable boost to the country’s advanced manufacturing sector.” - Xu Hongping, CASC Engineer

A variant of the Long March 10 rocket designed for low Earth orbit missions will support crew and cargo transport to the Tiangong space station. This variant will be 67 meters long, with a reusable first stage capable of producing about 892 tons of thrust and delivering no less than 14 tons to low Earth orbit. The reusable design of the first stage, verified at scale, will use retropropulsion and be caught by tightwires, eliminating the need for landing legs.

The YF-100K engines used in these rockets are upgraded versions of the YF-100 engines that have powered China’s new-generation kerosene rockets for nearly a decade. New launch facilities for the Long March 10 are under construction at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island.

This crewed lunar landing mission is a crucial component of China’s broader plans to establish a robotic and eventually inhabited moon base, an initiative known as the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).

In line with these plans, China recently selected a new batch of astronauts who have begun training for future lunar missions, marking another step forward in the nation’s ambitious space exploration agenda.