China seeking to become leading space power

The nation is likely to require help from Russia to fulfil its ambitious plans

China seeking to become leading space power Photo: DLR

Long March 9 super heavy space rocket being developed by China is meant to become an important part of the country's plans to make space a centrepiece of its soft power. To reach its goal, China will increase space exploration cooperation with Russia.

Sino-Russian space cooperation is looking to get stronger in the next decade, says Popular Science, adding that the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and Russian Roscomos have signed a wide-ranging space exploration cooperation agreement covering subjects from lunar exploration to monitoring orbital space trash. Among other issues, the two countries will probably cooperate on a super heavy-lift launch vehicle.

China is currently building one of the world's largest space rockets. LM-9 has a diameter of 10 metres, a height of 100 metres. The rocket will be capable of lifting 140 metric tonnes to low Earth orbit (LEO), which is right between the projected lifts of NASA's Space Launch System (130 tonnes) and SpaceX's BFR (150 tonnes). LM-9 will be also capable to bring up to 50 tonnes to Earth-Moon transfer orbit and 44 tonnes to Earth-Mars transfer orbit.

China and Russia cooperate in many areas from jets to cybersecurity. Photo: kremlin.ru

According to Chief Designer of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) Long Lehao, the CNSA is going to use the rocket to carry taikonauts to the Moon and establish a lunar base. Besides, LM-9 will perform a Martian soil sample return in 2030 after a Martian rover mission in 2020 and support a Chinese orbital solar powerplant transmitting energy back to power converters on Earth. CALT can be also working on a reusable version of LM-9, as the Chinese researchers aim to make all the country's space launch vehicles fully reusable by 2035.

At the moment, Russia and China are cooperating in multiple areas from jets to cybersecurity. The countries are also considering the possibility of creating a jointly-run orbital station and extraplanetary Russian payloads by Chinese super heavy rockets. Earlier this month, Governor of Hainan province Shen Xiaoming said that his province is planning a Sino-Russian space centre that will host joint work between government agencies, corporations and scientists. China's newest and largest space centre Wenchang Space Launch Centre is situated in Hainan. Russian experience with long-term manned space flight and deep space probes could work very well with Chinese super rockets and electronics technology, considers Popular Science.

By Anna Litvina