Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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China and Russia to Jointly Build Heavy Rockets for Deep Space Exploration


(Photo : Khrunichev) Briz-M hypergolic upper stage for Russia's workhorse Proton heavy rocket.

China and Russia appear on the verge of a deal to jointly build heavy rockets capable of lofting "yuhangyuans" (Chinese spacefarers) and Russian cosmonauts on deep space flights to the Moon and beyond. This cooperation will also extend to building future space stations.

Russia's Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov revealed China and Russia are actively discussing the prospects of cooperation in space rocket engine-making, specifically in building a heavy rocket.

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"Our country has substantial potential accumulated in the sphere of engine-making. This is a well-known fact," said Denisov.

"I would emphasize cooperation in outer space activity as a whole rather than a specific delivery of a batch of goods. The point is not to deliver specific equipment but to organize long-term mutually advantageous cooperation of the sides, which are objectively close to each other from the viewpoint of technical and technological compatibility."

Denisov noted the Chinese space industry was largely created with Russian technical assistance. He admitted China's space industry has reached a high level of independent development and has made significant recent advances in cosmonautics.

Despite these advances, the "field for cooperation remains quite broad" between both countries and "in a perspective, cooperation is perceptible in the field of designing a heavy rocket and establishing interaction in the sphere of space stations and long-distance flights."

Denisov, however, said Russia sees as very important "the protection of the rights of intellectual property along with generally-accepted international legal aspects of this activity."

China is now focusing on building and launching heavy lift launch vehicles with a payload in excess of 10 tonnes. On June 25, China launched its first Long March-7 rocket, its second most powerful rocket, from the new Wenchang Space Launch Center located at Hainan Island off the southern coast of China.

China took eight years to develop LM-7, which can lift up to 13.5 tonnes into low Earth orbit (LEO), comparable to other advanced rockets.

LM-7 is powered by the newly developed YF-100. The first stage uses two engines and strap-on boosters using a single engine each. The YF-115 driven second stage uses four engines. Both stages run on kerosene and liquid oxygen.

Long March-5 is China's most powerful rocket and the first launch of this heavy lifter is scheduled later this year. LM-5 is designed to carry 25 tonnes into LEO.

LM-5 will lift the lunar probe, Chang'e-5, the core module for China's space station and the Mars probe, into orbit in a few year's time.

Over the next 15 years, China will develop and launch a heavy lift rocket nearly 10 meters in diameter, with five times the carrying capacity of current rockets for future deep space exploration.

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