China conducted a successful test run of a domestically-developed solid-fuel rocket engine at a facility in the country’s northwest Shaanxi province on Tuesday.
The rocket engine, developed by a branch of the country’s Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, features the world’s largest thrust weighing about 500 tons and is powered by 150 tons of solid fuel, reported state-owned media.
This significantly improves the payload of the country’s solid propellant rockets, making it almost four times more powerful than the liquid fuel engine on Long March 5, which is currently the largest launch vehicle in China’s space programme, according to South China Morning Post.
“Today’s testing is very successful. We have tested all the parameters, including the 500-ton thrust that worked for 115 seconds,” said Ren Quanbin, president of the Fourth Research Institute of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
A solid rocket engine, unlike liquid-fuelled engines, is powered by high-energy gunpowder, has an instantaneous thrust, and is mainly used to deliver missiles to military platforms. It is expected to help Chinese astronauts on the moon by working as a booster for liquid-fuel rockets.
Space programmes use liquid fuel as they burn more efficiently and help in putting more payload in space, but it takes days to prepare.
Scientists say that this is the first time a rocket engine’s gun powder load was more than 100 tons. “For solid rocket engines, the gunpowder load was several hundred kilograms, several tons or dozens of tons,” Yu Ying, head of the 7416 plant under the Fourth Research Institute, said, according to ABC News. “This is the first time to surpass 100 tons.”
The body of the engine was made of composite material such as high-strength fibres to reduce its weight, Chinese space authorities said.
The creation of a 500-ton thrust solid engine has opened links to develop 1,000-ton solid thrust engine technology, the developers told state-owned Global Times.
The development of the latest rocket engine technology took place in several stages starting in 2009, with a 120-ton-thrust solid engine. It was followed by the development of 200-ton-thrust solid engine in 2019.
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