China’s space ambitions continue to expand with a new report in the Chinese local media indicating that the country is planning to develop rockets that can be launched into space from aircrafts.
According to China Daily, country’s China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology has already designed a solid-fuel rocket capable of carrying around 100 kg (220 lb) payload into low Earth orbit. These rockets will in turn be carried by large Y-20 strategic transport planes before they are launched into space. The eventual plan is to develop larger rockets capable of carrying 200 kg payload.
One of the biggest issues with traditional ground-based launch of rockets is the need to take into consideration a number of things including weather conditions, scheduling issues, launch windows, among other things. Aircraft based rocket launches do not have to take into consideration all these things and that one of the reasons why China is eyeing such capabilities.
According to information made available in the Chinese media, the aircraft will be holding the rocket in its fuselage and once it attains the required altitude, the rocket will be released. Once the rocket leaves the aircraft, it will be ignited and will progress towards its destination.
Chinese state media said last month China planned to launch its first cargo spacecraft in April, taking a step towards its goal of establishing a permanently manned space station by 2022.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has prioritised advancing China’s space programme, saying it was needed to enhance national security and defence, although its progress still lags behind the United States and Russia.
The United States isn’t too fond of Chinese space ambitions and believes that the country is pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations using space-based assets in a crisis.