Long March-9 Manned Lunar Booster
Heavy-duty launch vehicles are an important symbol of aerospace powers and the basis for large-scale space activities in the future. The new generation of heavy rocket Long March 9 that China is currently demonstrating plans to achieve its first flight around 2030.
The number 9 is a number for highest nobility, often only emperor can use number 9 (have 9 dragon stitched on his clothing and such). In feng shui, 9 is highest on the number scale and represents the ‘ultimate masculinity’. It was used to symbolize the supreme sovereignty of the emperor. The numeral 9 sounds just like jiu, which means “long lasting” and “eternity” in Chinese. At birthday and wedding celebrations, the number 9 is welcome as it represents longevity. 9 was also traditionally associated with the Chinese emperor. The emperor's robes had nine dragons on them, officials were organized in nine ranks, and the Forbidden City is known to have a total of 9,999 and a half rooms.
Long March 9 will 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, will be comparable in capacity to the Space Launch System (SLS) currently being 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 aims 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, is planned for 2028. "Our current launch vehicles, including the Long March-5, which is 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."
On April 14, 2016, in the lectures of Academician Long Lehao, three different configurations of heavy-duty rockets were described. The three configurations are modular, serialized, and universally designed. This configuration was again mentioned in the paper in the October 2016 issue of the Journal of Deep Space Exploration, in which the diameter of the booster was expanded to 5 meters, and two sets of 480-ton liquid-oxygen kerosene engines were used. The total mass was 4000 tons, the takeoff thrust is nearly 6,000 tons, and the low earth orbit carrying capacity is about 140 tons.
The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology opened preliminary research on a super-heavy rocket that will have a takeoff weight of 3,000 tons and can transport a 140-ton payload into low Earth orbit. If research and development go well, as of early 2017 it was projected that the super-heavy rocket would carry out its first flight around 2030, allowing China to land astronauts on the moon, and to send and retrieve Mars probes, designers at the academy said.
China's heavy-lift carrier rocket, currently called the Long March-9, will be sent into space by 2030, according to the Science and Technology Committee of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, reported 14 Feburary 2018. The Long March-9 rocket's carrying capacity will exceed 100 tonnes and its diameter will reach around 10 meters. "We will step up our efforts in the research and development of heavy-lift carrier rockets so as to send them into space at an earlier date," said Huang Chunping, an aerospace expert.
Li Hong, president of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, said scientists are designing two heavy-lift engines combining LOX with other fuels - kerosene in one and liquid hydrogen in the other - along with a large-diameter fuel tank. "Research and development will be finished within two to three years, and they will be used on our new heavy-duty rocket," Li said on 03 Marach 2018.
The academy, a division of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, is the largest developer of carrier rockets in China. Li is a member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which opens its annual session on Saturday in Beijing. According to Li, the new-generation rocket will have a diameter of about 10 meters, a length of nearly 100 m, and a carrying capacity as much as five times that of the current Long March 5.
China is expected to complete construction and fitting work on a prototype of its 500-ton liquid rocket engine within the year, Chinese experts said 06 March 2018. China is currently tackling problems on key technologies of three types of liquid rocket engines for its heavy-lift rockets: the 500-ton engine fueled by liquid oxygen and kerosene, 200-ton and 25-ton engines using liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as fuel. The country has also completed thermal tests on core modules together with some sub-models for the engines.
Liu Zhirang, head of the No.6 Research Institute of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), who is also a deputy to the 13th National People's Congress, made the remarks on Sunday, China's Science and Technology Daily reported on 06 March 2018.
The three types of engines will be applied as different stages of thrusters for the country's heavy-lift launch vehicle and their performance is designed to reach world-leading levels, Liu said, adding it is expected that the assembly and fitting work for the engineering sample of the 500-ton engine will be completed within the year.
From the prototype to the final delivery of the engine, it would normally take at least five years, which is in keeping with the China's Long March-9 launch schedule, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on 06 March 2018. To move from the 120-ton engine to a 500-ton one is not simply an enlargement, but requires overcoming exponential growth in technological difficulties. For example, as the thrust power increases, new significant challenges surface such as issues related to its physical design, thermal resistance and conductive technologies, among others, Liu noted.
The capacity of Chinese rockets would reach 140 tons for low-Earth orbit, 44 tons for Earth-Mars transfer orbit, 50 tons for Earth-Moon transfer orbit and 66 tons for geosynchronous transfer orbit in 2030, said Long Lehao, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a chief designer at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, when delivering a speech in Tsinghua University 02 July 2018.
One of the new generation rockets would be the heavy-lift Long March-9. The rocket would have a core stage with a diameter of 10 meters, and four boosters with a diameter up to 5 meters. The takeoff weight of the 93-meter-high Long March-9 would exceed 4,000 tons, and its takeoff thrust would be close to 6,000 tons. The rocket would be able to carry a payload of 140 tons into low-Earth orbit, Long said. The Long March-9 would have two variants: one with two boosters and the other one with no booster. Some breakthroughs had been achieved on the technologies of the Long March-9.
It could be used in manned lunar landings, deep space exploration and constructing a space-based solar power plant, Long said.