China's Space Program News Thread


Surpluswarrior

New Member
VIP Professional
What a waste of money. Anything larger than LM-5 is a waste.
China should instead focus on cost reductions and rocket reuse.
You can do on-orbit assembly of whatever you need to make a Moon or Mars mission.
Those ultra-expensive Saturn V like launchers are pointless.
The Soviets made Energia and it was relegated to the trash heap of history.
At best they continued the RD-171 rocket engine design. The rest was pure waste.
Of the Saturn V rocket only the RL-10 engine was retained into use.

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos' massive rockets (TSTO Starship, New Armstrong) are pointless also.
Even if they are reusable no one needs that kind of payload capability. Or will for the next decades.

Just look at Korolev and Chelomei's late designs for a manned Mars mission.
They didn't use chemical propulsion for manned Mars missions. They used nuclear or solar-electric propulsion.
This means the required payload mass is way lower than with chemical rockets.
I sympathize with the desire to cut costs and standardize on a more affordable rocket.

However, I think that if a country has grand ambitions like China, a heavy-lift rocket makes sense.

Energia didn't 'fail.' It was a great booster. However, it came at the wrong time [dissollution of the Soviet Union]. The new Russian Federation could not afford the payloads that would fly on Energia.

If the Soviet Union had continued, there were all sorts of payloads for Energia. Giant panels to bring artificial light to Northern towns, disposal of dangerous waste, and more importantly, the key infrastructure of a lunar base and things like Mars sample-return.

I remember reading all about Energia on the Astronautix website. The author lamented Energia's cancellation, pointing out that the USSR could have used it to leapfrog U.S. achievements, including the creation of a manned lunar facility.

If you are building a lunar base, for instance, you can simply land larger objects on the surface with a heavier rocket. In base and station construction, it's helpful for the engineers to launch everything at once. Skylab was one-launch. How many launches was ISS? So much time and space wasted just having the modules small, and each with mandatory docking components.

Imagine the kind of station China could launch with LM9. Full-sized comprehensive modules, fully-tested on the ground, and placed into orbit. They could have greater capabilities than the current station under construction.

Creating stations and missions by docking components in orbit using a medium rocket is great, especially if you need to get something done in the near-future using existing launch infrastructure. But if you have time and money, you can have a more robust capability and more ambitious objects. Docking is something of a pain, and introduces uncertainty as compared to a large monolithic payload.

Giant boosters are not incompatible with reusability. They were looking at flyback boosters for Energia even way back then, another thing the Soviets could have leapfrogged the U.S. on had they continued. LM9 can upgrade later with reusable components, just as Energia was planned to.

I agree that, in the context of the space race of USSR vs USA in the 1960s, it would have made more sense for the Soviets to forget about giant boosters, and focus on getting payloads to the moon via docking. The heavy booster would only have succeeded had Korolev lived, or if the design bureaus weren't competing over resources. Getting some kind of EOR Soyuz to and from the moon would have succeeded more readily than fiddling with a heavy lift rocket.

But that is not the present context. China set out both the time and the money to develop a HLV that can support serious ambitions starting in the 2030s. In that context, LM9 arguably makes sense. Yes, markets for the booster rocket are everything.

If a booster rocket is to be confined to the needs of the existing launch economy, then LM9 doesn't make sense. If we assume that China has goals for space exploration outstripping that of other countries, and can fund this program, then LM9 helps relieve the burden faced by a robust exploration program. It's all about the customer or client in launch services, and China is a customer that could potentially need a large rocket.
 

taxiya

Colonel
Registered Member
What a waste of money. Anything larger than LM-5 is a waste.
China should instead focus on cost reductions and rocket reuse.
You can do on-orbit assembly of whatever you need to make a Moon or Mars mission.
Those ultra-expensive Saturn V like launchers are pointless.
The Soviets made Energia and it was relegated to the trash heap of history.
At best they continued the RD-171 rocket engine design. The rest was pure waste.
Of the Saturn V rocket only the RL-10 engine was retained into use.

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos' massive rockets (TSTO Starship, New Armstrong) are pointless also.
Even if they are reusable no one needs that kind of payload capability. Or will for the next decades.

Just look at Korolev and Chelomei's late designs for a manned Mars mission.
They didn't use chemical propulsion for manned Mars missions. They used nuclear or solar-electric propulsion.
This means the required payload mass is way lower than with chemical rockets.
Without these super-heavy launchers, the bold text would be the only solution to put meaningful mass around orbit of the moon and beyond. But that won't work for a meaningful job. Many modules are too large or too heavy to be assembled above the earth surface. How many small pieces are you going to divide the module for space assembly?

Just give you an example of the US moon spacecraft (dry mass/launch mass). China's is in the same class.
Orion CM: 9,300 kg/10,400 kg
ESM: 6,185 kg/15,461 kg

You may think of dividing them in two launches (loaded), or even three launches (unloaded + fueling). That won't work because, CM alone can not survive the crew for more than an hour (oxygen, temperature control etc). All these are done by ESM. Neither can you launch them empty but combined then refuel because the fuel is used for maneuver back to the earth in case of abortion when the assembly is already in orbit. So the whole thing is 26 tonnes already. Now which rocket do you think can sent it to LEO? Only the "wasteful" SLS or Falcon Heavy.

Saturn V, SLS or CZ-9 are massive, but they are way more meaningful than things like Starship (for now). We need to treat them case by case.
 

gelgoog

Senior Member
Registered Member
...
However, I think that if a country has grand ambitions like China, a heavy-lift rocket makes sense.

Energia didn't 'fail.' It was a great booster. However, it came at the wrong time [dissollution of the Soviet Union]. The new Russian Federation could not afford the payloads that would fly on Energia.
...
If you are building a lunar base, for instance, you can simply land larger objects on the surface with a heavier rocket. In base and station construction, it's helpful for the engineers to launch everything at once. Skylab was one-launch. How many launches was ISS? So much time and space wasted just having the modules small, and each with mandatory docking components.

Imagine the kind of station China could launch with LM9. Full-sized comprehensive modules, fully-tested on the ground, and placed into orbit. They could have greater capabilities than the current station under construction.

Creating stations and missions by docking components in orbit using a medium rocket is great, especially if you need to get something done in the near-future using existing launch infrastructure. But if you have time and money, you can have a more robust capability and more ambitious objects. Docking is something of a pain, and introduces uncertainty as compared to a large monolithic payload.

Giant boosters are not incompatible with reusability. They were looking at flyback boosters for Energia even way back then, another thing the Soviets could have leapfrogged the U.S. on had they continued. LM9 can upgrade later with reusable components, just as Energia was planned to.

I agree that, in the context of the space race of USSR vs USA in the 1960s, it would have made more sense for the Soviets to forget about giant boosters, and focus on getting payloads to the moon via docking. The heavy booster would only have succeeded had Korolev lived, or if the design bureaus weren't competing over resources. Getting some kind of EOR Soyuz to and from the moon would have succeeded more readily than fiddling with a heavy lift rocket.

But that is not the present context. China set out both the time and the money to develop a HLV that can support serious ambitions starting in the 2030s. In that context, LM9 arguably makes sense. Yes, markets for the booster rocket are everything.

If a booster rocket is to be confined to the needs of the existing launch economy, then LM9 doesn't make sense. If we assume that China has goals for space exploration outstripping that of other countries, and can fund this program, then LM9 helps relieve the burden faced by a robust exploration program. It's all about the customer or client in launch services, and China is a customer that could potentially need a large rocket.
Buran and Energia were one of the contributing factors to the demise of the Soviet Union. They were spending 25% of the GDP in defense related projects to match US defense spending. The US borrowed internationally and inflated their debt while the Soviets could not.
Buran only flew once and IIRC Energia only flew twice.

The Proton rocket can launch the largest ISS modules as is. Even with a rocket like the SLS or LM9 you couldn't launch a space station with the same mass as the ISS in one launch. The Russians also had one launch space stations like Almaz. Almaz was launched with a single Proton launch. China did something similar with the even smaller Tiangong-1.

If such large rockets made fiscal sense then why did the US stop manufacturing the Saturn V? It is simple. It was unaffordable.

The Soviets had a lot of issues with their lunar program. One was that the Soviet leadership did not consider it a priority until after the US had already announced their lunar program thus wasting precious time. Another was they never did bench testing of the rocket. Instead they just assembled it in pieces and tested it in flight like they had done with the R-7. Which was a recipe for disaster. Another issue was the really large number of engines and poor quality control. To expedite things they tested one engine per batch instead of testing every single engine. So engines and pipes exploded in flight. Also, like you said, they simply had too many competing rocket programs. While the US focused on the Saturn V early on the Soviets had three competing programs simultaneously for a long time. One by Korolev, another by Chelomei, and another by Yangel. Even then in theory the Soviets could have done a manned lunar flyby before the US. Using the Proton rocket. There is just one catch. The Proton rocket back then was extremely unreliable so there was a high chance the mission would have been a disaster. In any case Korolev didn't allow such a mission to happen.

LM9 much like the SLS is simply unaffordable. The amount of payloads which make sense to launch on such a rocket are quite limited.
Something the size of Proton or at best Falcon Heavy is at the limit of what makes financial sense to build. If you can use reusability to drop down costs by a factor of say 10 you are better off with multiple launches than a larger rocket which might at best drop down costs by a factor of 2. Even if you take all possible payloads of an extended program like a lunar program you would only need to launch a rocket like that perhaps once every two or three years. Which makes it even more unaffordable. You have to pay costs to upkeep the production facilities and retain key staff while are you doing basically nothing. What you want is to launch often. As often as possible. That keeps costs per kg down.

In the case of Falcon 9 Heavy they can reuse the lower stages, all three of them, so you can reuse up to 3x9 i.e. 27 engines. And you only expend 1 single engine in the upper stage. Now that's savings.

China did a massive investment in leading edge technologies like staged combustion engines and the new launch facilities in Hainan island which is closer to the equator. That solves a lot of issues. But LM9 and SLS don't solve anything. Unfortunately the Russians also are planning to develop a monster rocket. It's a waste of money. By the time the rocket is developed there will be no money left to develop payloads. Even the US, which spends loads more on NASA than either Russia or China spend on space, like 10x more, can't afford it.
 
Last edited:

gelgoog

Senior Member
Registered Member
Without these super-heavy launchers, the bold text would be the only solution to put meaningful mass around orbit of the moon and beyond. But that won't work for a meaningful job. Many modules are too large or too heavy to be assembled above the earth surface. How many small pieces are you going to divide the module for space assembly?

Just give you an example of the US moon spacecraft (dry mass/launch mass). China's is in the same class.
Orion CM: 9,300 kg/10,400 kg
ESM: 6,185 kg/15,461 kg

You may think of dividing them in two launches (loaded), or even three launches (unloaded + fueling). That won't work because, CM alone can not survive the crew for more than an hour (oxygen, temperature control etc). All these are done by ESM. Neither can you launch them empty but combined then refuel because the fuel is used for maneuver back to the earth in case of abortion when the assembly is already in orbit. So the whole thing is 26 tonnes already. Now which rocket do you think can sent it to LEO? Only the "wasteful" SLS or Falcon Heavy.

Saturn V, SLS or CZ-9 are massive, but they are way more meaningful than things like Starship (for now). We need to treat them case by case.
That is patently false. Even Robert Zubrin has stated Starship (or other huge rockets like SLS or LM9) isn't necessary do conduct a manned Mars mission (let alone a lunar one) and even provided a mission plan for how to do it with just the Falcon 9 and Falcon 9 Heavy.
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!

The Orion CM is bloated like heck. Because it does not have an orbital module like, say, the Soyuz. It weighs almost the same as the Apollo capsule which uses decades old technology.

I'm fine with the Falcon Heavy or LM5. It is the SLS, Starship, and LM9 which are unaffordable.
 

taxiya

Colonel
Registered Member
That is patently false. Even Robert Zubrin has stated Starship (or other huge rockets like SLS or LM9) isn't necessary do conduct a manned Mars mission (let alone a lunar one) and even provided a mission plan for how to do it with just the Falcon 9 and Falcon 9 Heavy.
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!

The Orion CM is bloated like heck. Because it does not have an orbital module like, say, the Soyuz. It weighs almost the same as the Apollo capsule which uses decades old technology.

I'm fine with the Falcon Heavy or LM5. It is the SLS, Starship, and LM9 which are unaffordable.
Who is Robert Zubrin? Did he do any rocketry work? I don't necessarily accept his categorization of Starship with SLS or LM9. I agree with that Starship is nothing for a moon or mars mission, but nothing else. Please don't put Elon Musk (a big mouthed businessman) in the same group with scientists and engineers.

Orion CM is far from bloated, the Chinese new CM and Russian new CM all weighted about the same for the same number of crew for the same mission. That is the decision by top engineers of three top Space powers. Who is more qualified to call their design bloated? I know I am not knowledgeable to challenge them, I doubt any layman should either.

P.S. just for clarification, Falcon Heavy (LEO 63,8 tonne stated) is way more heavier than LM5 (25t LEO), a different category together with China's 921 rocket at 70 tonne LEO.
 

gelgoog

Senior Member
Registered Member
Who is Robert Zubrin? Did he do any rocketry work? I don't necessarily accept his categorization of Starship with SLS or LM9. I agree with that Starship is nothing for a moon or mars mission, but nothing else. Please don't put Elon Musk (a big mouthed businessman) in the same group with scientists and engineers.

Orion CM is far from bloated, the Chinese new CM and Russian new CM all weighted about the same for the same number of crew for the same mission. That is the decision by top engineers of three top Space powers. Who is more qualified to call their design bloated? I know I am not knowledgeable to challenge them, I doubt any layman should either.

P.S. just for clarification, Falcon Heavy (LEO 63,8 tonne stated) is way more heavier than LM5 (25t LEO), a different category together with China's 921 rocket at 70 tonne LEO.
Yeah but Falcon Heavy is modular. You basically use three regular Falcon 9 first stages.
The idea isn't new. Chelomei designed modular rockets in the 1960s.
The Proton for example was supposed to be part of a family of vehicles.
Angara is also supposed to be modular.
But Falcon is reusable.

LM7 and LM5 are sort of modular. While Falcon uses a common core booster design, LM family uses two core booster designs.
The new rocket (LM9) has little in common with LM7 or LM5 in that the core booster isn't the same. It has a max diameter of 10m.
That requires new tooling, new testing facilities, new transportation facilities, and likely all new launch facilities.
Compare that with Falcon Heavy which uses the same tooling, same testing facilities, same transportation facilities, and only required new launch facilities. Which are simpler than LM family's vertical tower to boot.

Robert Zubrin is a scientist, I think he's the President of the Planetary Society and used to work at NASA. There he wrote several proposals for things ranging from nuclear powered rockets, to Mars Direct, which was a proposal for a conventional chemical rocket mission to Mars using LOX/Methane with in-situ manufacture of Methane in Mars. He's quite well known in space circles.

With regards to Elon Musk, it is easy to dismiss him, but he has bachelor degrees in both Economics and Physics. He might not be able to do the actual work but at least he can understand the basic principles about it if someone talks to him about it. That's how he has managed to be much more successful at this business than a lot of people. In fact, a lot of people with even more money than him have tried to crack into the business of space launch and failed.
 

Top