China’s Long March 8, one of the country’s future launchers, could have a reusable first stage, according to a statement made recently by a Chinese rocket designer. Long March 8 rocket is going to launch by the end of 2018 to fill a gap in the country’s carrier rocket capabilities and commercial launch prospects, a top space official has said. Long Lehao of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), on April 24 revealed the new plans for the Long March 8 medium-lift launcher at a space industry conference in Harbin, northeast China. “The Long March 8 was previously expected to be developed as an expendable rocket to fill a gap in launch capabilities, allowing China to launch up to 4.5 metric tons to a 700-kilometer altitude Sun-synchronous orbit, both for government launches and competing in the global launch market”, mentioned SpaceNews.
Huang Jun, a professor at the Beihang University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Beijing, said that the Long March 8 will adapt existing launcher designs for vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL), similar to the method employed by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
According to the SpaceNews Huang states that the core of the Long March 8 is based on the existing Long March rockets, using a core very similar to that of the 3.35-meter-diameter Long March 7. The second stage will be based on the 3-meter-diameter liquid hydrogen-liquid oxygen second stage of the Long March 3A. The rocket will also use two solid propellant boosters, likely based on the Long March 11. It is Huang’s personal opinion that the YF-100 kerosene-liquid oxygen rocket engines which power the Long March 7 first stage — and thus expected to be on the new Long March 8 — would have undergone a redesign to provide the necessary throttling and restart capabilities, weight and other characteristics, as well as being reusable after recovery.
“There is no way to verify SpaceX’s claim, as it is the only company that owns the technology, and China has to wait for the moment when it has successfully recycled a rocket to see whether the costs can be lowered,” Lan told the English language Chinese newspaper Global Times April 26.