China explores the possibility of creating a fully reusable superheavy rocket

Chinese rocket builders are considering the possibility of creating a fully reusable version of the Long March 9 superheavy rocket. This is stated in the presentation published by Long Lehao, the chief designer of the Long March series of rockets.

Evolution of the Long March 9 rocket

Last year, the Chinese government approved plans to create a super-heavy rocket Long March 9. It is planned to use it for manned missions to the Moon, the assembly of various space structures, as well as flights into deep space. 

The original design of the Long March 9 rocket. Source:

The original concept of Long March 9 assumed the creation of a classic three-stage carrier equipped with engines powered by oxygen-kerosene (at the first stage) and oxygen-hydrogen (second and third stages). Additionally, up to four side boosters could be installed on the rocket. It was assumed that in its most powerful configuration, it would be able to launch up to 140 tons of payload into low Earth orbit (LEO), 50 tons on a flight path to the Moon and up to 44 tons to Mars.

Last year, an updated version of the Long March 9 design was published. It lost its side boosters, and its first stage became reusable. But, apparently, this is not the last metamorphosis of the carrier. In his recent presentation, Long Lehao presented a third, fully reusable version of the rocket, which is clearly inspired by the Starship project.

Reusable version of Long March 9

The new version of the Long March 9 is a two-stage rocket. Another important difference from the original project is the use of engines powered by oxygen-methane steam. In total, the first stage will be equipped with 26 similar power units. The rocket will be able to carry up to 150 tons on the LEO and up to 50 tons on the flight path to the Moon. According to Long Lehao, Long March 9 will begin its first flights in 2035.

At the same time, it is worth noting that, apparently, the leaders of the Chinese space program have not yet made a final choice in favor of any of the Long March 9 design options. It is also known that they are considering the option of simultaneous production of both disposable and reusable versions of the carrier.

Earlier we talked about China’s plans to launch an asteroid deflection mission in 2026.

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