China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC), a state-run space agency, is busy developing a reusable rocket and claim it will be ready for launch by 2020.
The prohibitively expensive space industry is getting cheaper and less expensive by the day with private players like SpaceX and Blue Origin innovating constantly and reducing the price per kilogram down to affordable levels. The main cost of placing an object in orbit, notes a report by Science Examiner, comes from lifting the payload into space, reaching escape velocity. The first stage booster, which is really expensive, simply burns up in the atmosphere and is lost.
One way to reduce the cost of launches is to land first stage cores after they have served their purpose of carrying the rocket to space. SpaceX, over the years, has perfected this technology and are now among the cheapest operators that can carry loads to Low Earth Orbit and Geostationary orbit. Also, NASA has used SpaceX to deliver and return experiments from the International Space Station (ISS) through their Dragon capsule. The company now has started to experiment with catching fairings as they fall from the sky to further reduce the cost of launches.
The Chinese, inspired by these efforts and seeing the potential for cheap and reliable launches have now reportedly started to develop their own version of a landing rocket. Dubbed the Long March 8, its design is based on the now currently operational Long March 5, notes the report. Soon after this, the next generation of rocket, called the Long March 9 which they say will be the most powerful rocket in under 10 years. The report also mentions that China says this rocket will have a higher capacity in terms of cargo carrying capabilities than any other rocket.
Long March 8 will have a first stage booster that will use fuel leftover from the launch to land vertically on a landing pad. This is expected to happen in 2020. The rocket will also carry 7.7 tons into orbit, notes the report.
By 2035, the CASTC aims to make all their rockets reusable.
Another Chinese company, Linkspace, is also building a vertical landing rocket called the New Line 1 which they say will also be launched in 2020.