What we know about Long March 9, China’s mega-rocket to go to the Moon and Mars

As SpaceX prepares to test its Starship and NASA and Boeing have successfully piloted the SLS, China is developing a super-heavy launch vehicle. Although its first flight is not expected before 2030, the CZ-9 is a sign of very high ambitions in manned exploration.

In February 2021, China announced the development of launcherlauncher super heavy CZ-9 (Long March 9), capable of sending humans to the Moon and Mars. A few days ago, Gu Mingkun, head of launch vehicles at the Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, a leading manufacturer of rocketsrockets of the country, revealed new information and specified that ” will be a partially reusable three-stage launcher 10 meters in diameter and 110 meters high “. When this launcher is in service, its carrying capacity will be more than five times greater than that of Long March 5, currently China’s most powerful rocket. Its first flight is scheduled for 2030.

The ambitious Chinese space program in 2023

On the performance side, Gu Mingkun confirmed that the CZ-9 will be able to send around 50 tons of payload to lunar missions like the constructionconstruction a habitable outpost or the necessary infrastructure for mining. Unsurprisingly, this launcher will be used to send men to Mars during the 2030s, with a payload capacity of over 40 tons. In this area, China is particularly ambitious, as it plans a first manned mission from 2033, followed by three more at the rate of one every 26 months (2035, 2037 and 2041).

The manned exploration launcher

Gu Mingkun took advantage of this media release to reveal a new launcher derived from the CZ-9 and designed to manned flightsmanned flights at the orbitorbit down and carrying heavy loads. This two-stage launcher would be capable of carrying 50 to 150 tons in low orbit, depending on its equipment in reinforcementsreinforcements supplements or not. These two launchers will have the main stage in common, which will be reusable. In total, the CZ-9 could give rise to a family of four very high capacity launchers. Studies also tend to think that China could consider making a launcher with a similar architecture to Falcon Heavy from SpaceXSpaceX is on Delta IV HeavyDelta IV Heavy from United Launch Alliance, whose main stage will consist of three CZ-9 main stages.

With these two launchers, China consolidates its ambitions in the field of manned exploration, from low orbit to the Moon andlunar outpostslunar outposts for March. With new technologies to acquire (reuse, composite materials, electronics, etc.), China is working to catch up or match its technological lag in relation to the United States and even to surpass certain American capabilities in space.


Article of Daniel CristianoDaniel Cristiano published on 11/27/2022

It was speculative until now, now it’s official. China opted for a redesign of its Long March 9 moon rocket, including reuse. A first model was shown as a model during the big exhibition of theairair and from Zhuhai, in the south of the country, about ten days ago.

The rocket that will take the first Chinese astronauts to the moon will therefore be reusable. Its design was confirmed by a CALT official, Chinese 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 China’s most powerful rocket in service. It was she who sent the Chang’e 5 lunar sample retrieval mission into space, the 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 side thrust boosters. liquidliquid that were just central organs of the Long March 5! The new reusable design adopted is radically different.

The chosen project is a three-story megarocket, measuring 108 meters high and 10 meters in diameter! The superheavy launcher would weigh 4,180 tonnes and therefore be more powerful than the SLS Block 1. It could carry payload:

  • 150 tons for low orbit;
  • 50 tons for thetransfer orbittransfer orbit to the moon;
  • 35 tons for transfer orbit to Mars.

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

The weak Chinese experience of reusables

The choice may surprise you. So far, no reusable Chinese rocket has flown. There are a multitude of projects. CALT has already flown the Long March 8 rocket, a “reusable” version of the LM-7, a rocket used primarily to send cargo ships to the Chinese station, several times. However, the current version of LM-8 is not reusable and is only used for testing the launcher architecture. Furthermore, China lacks experience in atmospheric reentry.

Long March 9 is due to take off in 2030, the year China’s first lunar flight is due to take place according to an official schedule, which has yet to be updated. If the LM-9 engine tests have just begun, then such a radical change in the design will inevitably lead to delays.

Long March 9, the Chinese moon rocket. © YouTube

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