FPI / July 19, 2022
By Richard Fisher
On July 12 a series of slides appeared on Chinese web page from a briefing by Long Lehao, former Deputy Chief Designer for the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program from 2004 to 2009.
He is also former Chief Designer of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) Long March-3A, the basis for the LM-3F man rated space launch vehicle (SLV).
In his current position as honorary president of Shangqiu Institute of Technology in Henan Province, Long Lehao has become something of an unofficial spokesman, entrusted to explain new developments in China’s evolving space launchers, lunar and deep space programs.
In his latest briefing, updating another detailed briefing from June 2021, Long Lehao provided an update on CASC’s plans to develop a reusable super heavy SLV by 2035 that could provide significant competition for the SpaceX Corporation Starship.
The CASC SLV so far is called a development of the CASC Long March-9 superheavy SLV but its formal designation has not yet been revealed.
However, it is a significant departure from the Long March-9, which has been revealed as a 4-stage 9.5-meter diameter SLV with four strap-on boosters. With a gross weight of 4,137 tons and an initial lift off thrust of 5,873 tons, it is able to loft 50 tons to Lunar Transfer Orbit (LTO) or to the moon, or 140 tons to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
Early versions of the Long March-9 are single use; they are “expendable” and cannot be reused like the Starship, which can lower costs over multiple uses.
In this sense, the early version of Long March-9 is comparable to the $1 billion, 8.4 meter diameter, 2,608 ton U.S. Space Launch System (SLS) that in early configuration can loft 27 tons to the moon and in later versions, up to 43 tons to the moon.
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