China just test-fired the engine for its huge new moon and Mars rocket

A hot fire test of the YF-130 liquid rocket engine on Nov. 5, 2022.
A hot fire test of the YF-130 liquid rocket engine on Nov. 5, 2022. (Image credit: CASC)

China has completed a first hot fire test of a fully-assembled powerful new engine that could power new launch vehicles and boost the country's space capabilities.

The full system test of the 500-ton-thrust, dual nozzle kerosene-liquid oxygen staged combustion cycle engine took place on Nov. 5, marking a milestone for the rocket engine. 

The engine, sometimes referred to as the YF-130, is more than four times more powerful than the nation's current YF-100 kerosene-liquid oxygen engines, which produce 120 tons of thrust and are used in China's Long March 5, 6 and 7 rockets. The first hot fire test of the full system YF-130 marks a "major milestone," CASC said in a statement (opens in new tab).

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The engine is being developed by the Sixth Institute of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), a giant state-owned enterprise and the country's main space contractor.

The powerful new engine has been slated for use in the first stage of a Long March 9 super heavy-lift rocket that could facilitate missions to the moon and Mars. The development follows the successful testing in September of a liquid hydrogen-liquid oxygen engine for the rocket's upper stage.

Despite the breakthroughs, China is apparently considering revamping and altering its super heavy-lift rocket plans to pursue reusability. New presentations of reusable Long March 9 rocket concepts by senior Chinese space officials have come in the wake of the progress made by SpaceX on its reusable rockets and the huge new Starship system.

On the same day as the YF-130 test, CASC's Sixth Institute also tested a new, 80-ton engine which uses a methane and liquid oxygen propellant mix. 

The engine will be used for commercial space launch vehicles, and at the same time lay an important technical foundation for the development of reusable vehicles, according to CASC.

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for Space.com in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI (opens in new tab).