Long March 9 - 2012 Iteration
The configuration of the Long March 9 has gone through many plans, with two configurations that were initially used for the primary selection. As of 2021, the strap-on boosters were still 3.35 meters in diamter. The controversy initially focused on whether the first-stage rocket uses an all-kerosene configuration or a solid propulsion + liquid hydrogen configuration. In more detail, since both configurations require high-thrust oxyhydrogen machines, the main controversy is actually whether to develop a high-thrust kerosene engine or a high-thrust solid booster.
In terms of technical difficulty, the kerosene engine is more complicated than the solid motor , and the technical difficulty is also greater. But the specific impulse of the kerosene engine is higher. That is to say, carrying the same weight of fuel and the same working thrust, the working time can be longer (that is, fuel-efficient). The kerosene engine has one of the biggest advantages, that is, the storage procedure is simple and has little effect on performance. Among the countries in the world, the Soviet Union/Russia uses the most kerosene machines.
Current boosters use dual YF100 engines on a single rocket body, with a total thrust of 240 tons. If the 480-ton dual-chamber engine is halved and the single-chamber engine is developed, the thrust is also 240 tons. When developing new medium, large and even light rockets in the future, engines can be replaced in this way, reducing the number of engines on the rocket, reducing the complexity of the system, and increasing reliability.
Long March 9 would be in a class similar to America's legendary Saturn V rocket that took Americans to the Moon from 1969 to 1972. This rocket, however, would be comparable in capacity to the Space Launch System (SLS) developed by NASA. Unlike the Saturn V, the size and payload requirements for the Long March 9 have grown over time, in a manner of the requirements creep that overtook the Soviet N-1 booster.
To meet long-term space goals, China would need to develop a rocket with a takeoff thrust of 3,000 tons, three times that of Long March-5, which will be able to send men to the moon, Liang Xiaohong, deputy head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, told China Daily on March 04, 2013.
Research on a heavy-thrust launch vehicle had been carried out in the past years. Scientists visualized a rocket with a diameter of at least 8 meters, able to send a 100-ton payload into low earth orbit. The academy aimed to have the heavy-thrust rocket project approved by the government under the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-15), Liang said. "If approved, China will stand in the same line as space powers such as the United States and Russia regarding launch vehicles, which is the precondition for all space activities," he said.
The first launch of the rocket, dubbed Long March-9, was planned for 2028. "Our current launch vehicles, including the Long March-5, which was set to conduct its first launch soon, will be able to undertake the country's space activities planned for the coming 10 years,” Li Tongyu, head of aerospace products at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, said 08 December 2014. "But for the nation's long-term space programs, their capabilities will not be enough."
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