China has developed a world-class solid-propellant rocket engine that is expected to boost the country's capabilities in launching small satellites, its developer said.
The Academy of Aerospace Solid Propulsion Technology in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, announced that the first ignition test of the engine was successfully made on Tuesday.
The academy said in a statement that the engine uses several advanced technologies and high-performance composite materials and has world-class capability. It can be used with the country's new-generation solid-fuel rockets, giving such rockets more power to lift small satellites and also promising good competitiveness in the commercial launch market, it said.
The academy said the engine has a diameter of 2.65 meters, contains 71 metric tons of solid propellant and produces 200 tons of thrust－making it the biggest and most powerful known solid-propellant engine in China. The engine that previously held that distinction is made by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp Fourth Academy in Wuhan, Hubei Province, and produces 180 tons of thrust.
Wang Jianru, the new engine's chief designer, said it is based on its predecessor, which is used with China's Long March 11 carrier rocket and features advanced composite materials built into its casing.
He said the new engine will be used on the upgraded variant of Long March 11, enabling the new model to transport a 1.5-ton satellite or multiple satellites with a combined weight of 1.5 tons, to a sun-synchronous orbit 700 kilometers high. The carrying capacity of the original Long March 11 for such orbits is 400 kilograms.
Development of the new engine shows there are plans to diversify the launch portfolio of Long March 11 to turn it from a single model into a family of models to enable it to meet different demands in the launch market.
The Long March 11, developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing, is a major solid-fueled carrier rocket and has been used for six flights from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China. The rocket is mainly used for lifting small satellites to sun-synchronous orbit
The Long March 11 will fulfill four missions this year, including the nation's first sea-based launch, which will take place in the Yellow Sea, according to plans of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.
Jin Xin, deputy project manager of Long March 11, said a sea-based mission would have a lower risk of creating problems for populated areas or airliners than land-based launches, and also have greater flexibility in the launch site and lower costs for satellites orbiting above regions near the equator.