Chinese-Made Passenger Spaceplane In The Works


Chinese scientists are looking to get into the space tourism industry with their own design fora reusable, rocket-equipped space vehicle. The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology announced its ambitious concept at the recent International Astronautical Congress in Mexico, according to a New Scientist report. The China Academy team’s concept is similar to thespaceplanes under development by private enterprises such as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. The design features a winged vehicle with its own rocket, allowing it to launch from a pad and land back on the ground. The flights would cost between $200,000 and $250,000 per passenger, as described in a Popular Science report.

The announcement didn’t provide much detail on the spaceplane’s construction, components or the rocket design, but New Scientist quoted a China Academy official at the congress saying that the spacecraft’s development is already well underway, and “almost all of the ground tests have been finished and all the subsystems of the test vehicle worked very well.” Test flights are slated to take place over the next two years, the report said. Also, there are two sizes in the works – a 10-ton spaceplane that can carry five people, and a 100-ton version for up to 20 people with an external rocket that would provide the power to reach low orbit for delivering satellites, New Scientist reported. This larger version and the test-flight schedule drew some skepticism from an expert at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, who told the magazine that “the most unusual part is the belief that they can send up to 20 people to 100 kilometres and more on a rocket without a mother ship and no staging, reusing it some 50 times.”