Space: China Goes Big, Cheap and Reliable


October 18, 2006: China, encouraged by its success in selling satellite launching services, has enlarged it basic satellite booster rocket to one that can put 25 tons into low orbit, and 14 tons into higher geostationary orbits. The new rockets won't be available for customers until 2011. But the usually secretive Chinese know they have to give potential customers some lead time, and are talking up the new capabilities. The Chinese are also making much of their track record. In the last nine years, China's "Long March" rocket has gone up 46 times in a row, without a failure. China uses a simpler, older, technology. It's big and cheap, and reliable. The new launcher will use a the 120-ton thrust liquid-oxygen/kerosene engine and the 50-ton hydrogen-oxygen engine one. The simplicity of this technology, and the Chinese success in copying it from the older Russian rockets, and using it successfully for so long, makes them confident that their new rockets will work, and will be available on time. Given China's track record, their plan seems likely to succeed. This will make China an even more dominant player the satellite launching industry.


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