China to develop satellite-delivery rockets from airplanes

China will develop a new generation of rockets that can be launched into space from an aircraft, a senior official said.

Published: 07th March 2017 11:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th March 2017 11:58 AM   |  A+A-

A Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force Su-30 fighter, right, flies along with a H-6K bomber as they take part in a drill near the East China Sea. (File Photo | AP)

A Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force Su-30 fighter, right, flies along with a H-6K bomber as they take part in a drill near the East China Sea. (File Photo | AP)

By PTI

BEIJING: China will develop a new generation of rockets that can be launched into space from an aircraft, a senior official said.     

Air-launched rockets can rapidly replace dysfunctional satellites or, in cases of disaster relief, quickly send up Earth observation satellites to assist in the effort, Li Tongyu, the head of carrier rocket development at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, said.     

Engineers at the academy, which is the main developer of Chinese carrier rockets, have designed a model capable of sending a payload of about 100 kilograms into low Earth orbit, he said.     

They plan to design a larger rocket that could carry 200 kg into orbit.     

"The Y-20 strategic transport plane will be the carrier of these rockets. The jet will hold a rocket within its fuselage and release it at a certain altitude. The rocket will be ignited after it leaves the plane," Li was quoted as saying by state-run China Daily.     

Large satellites will still have to be put into orbit with conventional rockets, experts said.     

Delivery of the Y-20 to the Chinese Air Force began in July. It is China's first domestically developed heavy-lift transport plane and has a maximum take-off weight of more than 200 metric tons and a maximum payload of about 66 tons, the Daily quoted aviation experts as saying.     

Solid-fuel rockets can be launched from planes much faster than land-based liquid-fuelled rockets, where preparation can take days, weeks or longer, in part because it takes so much time to pump in the fuel, experts said.     

Each mission involving a solid-fuel rocket launched by a Y-20 would take only 12 hours of preparation to place a 200 kg satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit 700 km above Earth, Long Lehao, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said.     

Other advantages of such rockets are that they are flexible in deployment and do not need ground infrastructure, Pang Zhihao, executive editor-in-chief of Space International magazine said.     

They also are less susceptible to bad weather and launch costs are lower than those of ground-launched rockets, he added.     

The US undertook the world's first air-launched space mission in 1990, in which a Pegasus rocket developed by the former Orbital Sciences Corp was launched from a refitted B-52 strategic bomber to send two small satellites into orbit.     

Since then, 43 Pegasus missions have been carried out, with the most recent in December.     

Several US space companies, including Virgin Galactic and Generation Orbit Launch Services, are developing air-launched rockets, the Daily report said.

Stay up to date on all the latest World news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)

Comments

Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp