Previously mentioned a lot of players are involved with cutting edge efforts for space exploration. Russia is still a player. So is China. Here are a few articles on the Chinese efforts:
1/11 – Behind the Black – China has big plans in space in 2016 – Summary of the following article. Recap says China has the goal of launching a new space station in 2016 and put staff on it along with initial launch of two new rockets.
1/11 – Parabolic Arc – China Plans Space Station & New Booster Launches in 2016 – Article gives a few more details on China’s plans for spaceflight in 2016:
- Long March 5 will be their program’s most powerful rocket. The lift capacity is 25 metric tons to low earth orbit and 14 metric tons to geosynchronous transfer orbit.
- Long March 7 will have lift capacity of 13.5 metric tons to LEO and 5.5 metric tons to sun-synchronous orbit (Huh? Yeah, article said sun-synchronous). Article says this is based on the Long March 2F booster which is rated to carry humans. I infer that means the Long March 7 will be able to lift humans into orbit.
- Taingong-2 space station will be launched and occupied. This will be China’s second space station.
Official announcement says China will add two more Beidou satellites to its existing space navigation system. Picture a proprietary, nationally controlled GPS network.
Article says the Taingong-2 resembles the Russian Salyut 6 and 7 space stations from the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Before you chuckle that the Chinese are catching up with where the Russians were 30 or 40 years ago, keep in mind the Chinese have developed their own space station in the past, will launch a new design, and will occupy the new station.
Also keep in mind the US no longer has its own capacity to lift astronauts into orbit; we have to hire a ride from the Russians. The US has not only lost the ability to go to the moon, we have even lost the ability to get our own astronauts into orbit. We have regressed to the days of early Mercury launches. We can no longer even match the achievement of John Glenn’s orbital flight using our own equipment.
Here is my comparison of the Long March 5 and 7 to other lift vehicles:
- LM5 – LM 7 – Ariane 5 – Falcon 9 – Falcon Heavy – orbit
- 14 mT – 5.5 mT – 10 mT – 4.8 mT – 21 mT – GTO
- 25 mT – 13.5 mT – 20 mT – 13 mT – 53 mT – LEO
Looks to me like Long March 7 will be roughly comparable to a Falcon 9 and a Long March 5 will be slightly more powerful than an Ariane 5.
Competition. Very, very cool.