Let me teach you a little bit of Chinese:
重复 利用 火箭 系统 - reusable rocket system
You didn't really need to know that word until October 29, unless you also wanted to learn 猎鹰-9 (Falcon 9). Now you do, because CASC posted some video of their reusable rocket demonstrator:
— New China 中文 (@XinhuaChinese) October 31, 2018
Clearly there's a long way to go before becoming a fully reusable rocket a la SpaceX or Blue Origin. For starters, that's not using rocket propulsion, but whatever jets it's using is good enough to get it away from the ground, and then good enough to keep it away from the ground, good enough to test the attitude control software and the actuators that vector the thrust. Landing a rocket with the engines on the bottom is like driving a rear-wheel drive car on a gravel road—it just wants to slide the tail end around.
For a bit more info:
- Andrew Jones, China continues recoverable rocket efforts with vertical landing flight test, GBTIMES (2018-11-01).
- You should also follow Andrew on Twitter for more coverage: @AJ_FI
- 火箭回收技术验证成功 中国版“猎鹰-9”号来了, tech.huanqiu.com (2018-10-30)
One more thing that's always been on my mind about the reusable rockets: is it worth it? I never doubted for a second that SpaceX would get the technology to work. And they did—beautifully. But I've never encountered anything more than the usual platitudes about how it's obviously better to reuse rockets. It's that word obviously that makes me pause. Obviously is sometimes a code word for assumed. (whispers: Space Shuttle.) I would love to be convinced one way or the other. Honestly, taking some time to model the the thing is the only way to understand it, like OccupyDuna on Reddit.
In the meantime, here is a collection of links that I've just collected to read about the economics of reusability:
- Kendall Russell, Calculating the Economics of Reusable Launch Vehicles, Via Satellite (2018-05)
- Richard Webb, Is It Worth It? - the Economics of Reusable Space Transportation, International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association (ICEAA) 2016 International Training Symposium (2016-10-17)
- Matthew P. Richardson and Dominic W.F. Hardy, Economic Benefits of Reusable Launch Vehicles for Space Debris Removal, New Space, Vol. 6, No 3 (2018-09-01) (pdf)
- Rod D. Martin, Reusable Rockets and the Dawn of the Next Space Age, Stratfor Worldview (2018-02-20)
- Charlie Wood, Recycle, reuse: How cheap can SpaceX make space?, Christian Science Monitor, (2017-02-04)
- Eric Berger, Market doesn’t justify reusable launchers, expendable rocket makers argue, Ars Technica (2016-07-26)
- Loren Grush, SpaceX’s reusable rockets will make space cheaper — but how much?, The Verge (2015-12-24)