A Chinese launch firm is seeking to offer trips to space for tourists as soon as 2024, presumably taking inspiration from the achievements of Blue Origin.
CAS Space, a commercial offshoot from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), is already building rockets for commercial satellite launches and stated in August that it intends to take humans up into space, although briefly.
According to the news release, CAS Space is working on a single-stage reusable rocket which would carry as many as seven people on a 10-minute trip up over the Kármán line at 62 miles (100 kilometers), which is widely considered to be the border between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.
The CAS Space project’s drawings (which have since been removed) are very similar to both Blue Origin’s New Shephard suborbital space tourism rocket and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.
While there are some parallels between New Shephard and Blue Origin’s rocket, there are several significant variations, including the use of five “Xuanyuan” kerosene-liquid oxygen engines, as opposed to a single BE-3 liquid hydrogen-liquid oxygen engine on Blue Origin’s rocket.
On the top of the rocket, there are grid fins that will direct the rocket’s fall, as seen in the renderings. An arm connected to the launch tower would “catch” the rocket in place of landing legs, similar to the idea revealed by SpaceX for their enormous Starship Super Heavy rocket.
In the meanwhile, the crew capsule will fall to the surface of the planet with the assistance of three parachutes.
And so we have China’s answer to New Shephard. CAS Space, a Chinese Academy of Sciences launch spinoff, is developing reusable suborbital tourism rocket. Ambitiously aiming for 1st flight demo test in 2022, tourism services in 2024. 7 passengers to 100 km https://t.co/2y2hlJxIBQ pic.twitter.com/y4F0TuSJ2z
— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) August 13, 2021
It is unclear if the artwork in the news release properly depicts CAS Space’s intentions, and we will learn more about them in 2022, when the firm hopes to do its first demonstration flight. Following that, in 2023, a complete suborbital test flight would be conducted, with suborbital tourist services starting in 2024.
The timetable is unquestionably ambitious. In April 2015, Blue Origin’s New Shephard successfully completed its maiden unmanned flight. Its first crewed launch occurred more over six years and fourteen flights later, on July 20, this year, transporting company founder Jeff Bezos and three people on a suborbital trip.
When everything seems impossible, it’s important to remember that CAS Space (whose full name is Beijing Zhongke Aerospace Exploration Technology Co., Ltd) is a well-funded business with a long history, experience, and support that can assist it on its journey to the moon.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is the country’s national academy for natural sciences, and it has a minor role in the country’s space sector, which includes the construction of a variety of satellites and the use of sounding rockets for scientific research. China Aerospace Science and Technology (CAS Space) is attempting to establish a footing in the country’s growing commercial space industry by utilizing CAS technology and experience in propulsion and other areas.
The company was officially established in December of 2018. It began by working on solid rockets before stating that it will be exploring more sophisticated liquid propellant launchers in the future. A number of commercial Chinese launch firms have arisen since China opened up parts of its space industry to private investment in 2014. CAS Space is one of these businesses. It is also possible that it may make its maiden launch attempt in the near future.
The ZK-1A solid rocket developed by CAS Space was announced earlier this year as being ready for a maiden flight in September. It is uncertain whether or not the project will go on time. Additionally, CAS Space is building facilities in Guangzhou, which is located in southern China.
In April, the company conducted a vertical launch, vertical landing demonstrator weighing 50.7 pounds (23 kg), which was intended to be a first step toward reusable liquid propellant rockets. The successful testing would also be beneficial for the company’s suborbital space tourism rocket, which is now under development.