China is developing a heavy-reusable rocket similar to SpaceX’s Starship. Long Lehao is the chief designer of Long March’s missile series. He spoke about his concept.
The first stage of the launch vehicle will have a diameter 10.6 meters and be equipped with 26 engines that can generate a thrust of 200 tonnes. It will run on a mixture liquid oxygen/methane. This fuel gives engines more thrust and prevents them from coking and soot formation. This fuel is, of course, better than traditional fuel for reusable rockets. Starship uses liquid methane for fuel and liquid oxygen as an oxidizing agent.
The rocket can deliver 150 tons of payloads to low earth orbit, 65 tons for geotransfer orbit and 50 tons to lunar orbit. The Long March 9’s maximum configuration will appear to have three steps. Its height or length will be 110 meters and its launch weight will be 4122 tonnes. The launch weight of the Starship with Super Heavy booster is 5000 tonnes.
You can generally see the Chinese’s idols. The first launch of the Long March 9 heavy, reusable Long March 9 missile is expected to take place in 2035. China will however prepare many more missiles before then. The first is a once-off option. It should be available earlier, in 2030.
You might wonder what the point is of releasing a disposable spacecraft if it can be reused and that they are being made in parallel. China has ambitious space exploration goals, so even a new disposable rocket by 2030 will be a great help to future missions.
China will also build a small, reusable rocket measuring approximately 5 meters in diameter. She will also be equipped with methane-oxygen engines, which will replace the Long March rockets that run on kerosene.