China has made a breakthrough in its quest to develop reusable launch vehicles like SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
Engineers performed the first hot-fire test of a 130-ton-thrust engine on Saturday (Nov. 26). The test included stopping and reigniting the engine, a process needed to control how and where rocket stages return to the ground.
The engine was tested by the Academy of Aerospace Propulsion Technology in Xi'an, a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the country’s main space contractor and maker of the Long March rocket family.
The engine burns a mix of kerosene and liquid oxygen. It includes components made using 3D printing, automatic welding and intelligent assembly, and it's capable of adjusting the thrust it produces when firing.
The engine is named the YF-100N and is a more advanced version of the YF-100 engine, which is used in China’s current Long March 5, 6 and 7 rockets.
CASC plans to have a first flight test of the new rocket around 2026, and says it will be able to launch a pair of the rockets to facilitate a short-term crewed lunar landing mission before the end of the decade.