China unveils the new design of its mega-rocket to go to the Moon

It was speculative until now, now it’s official. China has opted for a new design of its Long March 9 lunar rocket, including reuse. A first model was exhibited as a model during the major air and space exhibition in Zhuhai, in the south of the country, about ten days ago.

The rocketrocket which will take the first Chinese astronauts to the Moon will therefore be reusable. Its design has been confirmed by a CALT official, China Academy of Launch vehicle Technology, on Chinese TV on November 7.

The old design matched that of the Long March 5, but bigger. The LM-5 is the most powerful Chinese rocket in exercise. She was the one who sent the lunar sample recovery mission into space. Chang’e 5Chang’e 5the martian missionmartian mission Tianwen-1, or even the modules of the new chinese space stationchinese space station. The old version had a central body equipped with new engines, accompanied by several propulsion side boosters liquidliquid which were only central bodies of the Long March 5! The new reusable design adopted is radically different.

The chosen design is a three-story mega-rocket, measuring 108 meters high and 10 meters in diameter! the launcherlauncher super-heavy would weigh 4,180 tons and would thus be more powerful than the SLS Block 1. It could carry in payload:

The mockup on display in Zhuhai suggests that only the first stage would be reusable, unlike SpaceX’s Starship. We see it equipped with grid endsaerodynamic guide grids essential to control atmospheric re-entry.

The weak Chinese experience of reusable

The choice may surprise. So far, no reusable Chinese rocket has flown. There are a myriad of projects. CALT has already flown the Long March 8 rocket several times, a “reusable” version of the LM-7, a rocket used in particular to send cargo ships to the Chinese station. However, the current version of the LM-8 is not reusable and is just used to test the launcher architecture. Moreover, China lacks experience in atmospheric re-entry.

The Long March 9 is expected to take off in 2030, the year in which China’s first lunar flight is due to take place according to an official schedule, which is currently not updated. If the engine tests of the LM-9 have just started, such a radical design change will inevitably lead to delays.

Long March 9, the Chinese moon rocket. © YouTube

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