China is currently working toward building a mixed-power aircraft, which would greatly reduce the cost for ordinary people to visit space, according to a report by CCTV’s Xinwen Lianbo.
China hopes to grasp the key technologies required for such an aircraft, including orbiting and injection, by around 2030, according to Zhang Yong, deputy chief researcher from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
Researchers believe that the future aircraft will be able to be recycled, allowing it to be used for more than one trip between Earth and space. Furthermore, the aircraft will be able to land at an ordinary airport, just like standard airplanes. Together, these characteristics will greatly reduce the costs passed along to potential passengers.
Compared with space shuttles and some recycled carrier rockets, the proposed aircraft will be superior in terms of required maintenance and practicality, according to the report by CCTV. A report by Guancha said that the aircraft aims to challenge Space X from a technological perspective.
According to a previous Guancha report, an agreement was signed on July 6 between an R&D center from the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), the Department of Aviation of Northwestern Polytechnical University and the Academy of Aerospace Liquid Propulsion Technology (a subsidiary of CASC). The agreement states that the institutions will work together to jointly develop the technology for a mixed-powered aircraft.
Yang Yang, a designer at CALT, said that ordinary people will one day be able to visit space without professional training, all thanks to this aircraft. Astronauts on carrier rockets tend to be fighter pilots in excellent physical condition, as astronauts have to bear a great deal of weight due to the extreme speed of the rocket, Yang said.
Different from carrier rockets, the new aircraft will use low-thrust rocket engines, turbine engines and scramjets so as to gain speed more gradually. This way, the extra force placed on passengers will not exceed what an ordinary person can stand.
The aircraft will not only be capable of manned aerospace missions, but will also be able to launch satellites, according to Yang. However, Yang admitted that there is still a long way to go to realize these abilities.