China’s Long March 934 may beat SLS Block 2 to orbit and beats its minimum payload as well

by | Feb 2, 2017 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Drawing of Long March 932 Courtesy: CALT

Drawing of Long March 932 Courtesy: CALT

While USA has decided to only proceed with the SLS block 1B for the time being, capable of lofting circa 100 metric tons to low Earth orbit (LEO), there is, of ocurse, the promise, of a Block 2 version to follow using advanced solid or new liquid fuel boosters carrying a minimum of 130 metric tons to LEO. China has decided to eschew solid rocket boosters for its new Long March 9 (CZ-9) heavy lift equivalent to the US SLS but instead will use four liquid fuel boosters powered by a liquid oxygen (LOx)/Kerosene combination of propellants. In going straight for this design in a project set to start within the next five years, the booster is reported to be able carry 140 metric tons to LEO, and 50 metric tons to a trans lunar orbit.

Published drawings of China’s new Long March 934 (CZ-934) heavy lift rocket configuration shows a rocket roughly equivalent to a Saturn V core but with four boosters attached to it. It uses a first stage powered by LOx/Kerosene, with a second stage powered by the cryogenic combination of LOx and Liquid hydrogen. A third stage will also use this propellant combination.

This leaves the prospect of NASA astronauts being beaten by China’s Taikonauts in a race to return mankind to the Moon. Well, that is, unless the new Trump administration orders work to start on advanced liquid fuel boosters for SLS Block 2. Neither the Block 1 or 1b version has a payload capability large enough to carry a lunar lander as well as the Orion caspule/service module to lunar orbit. However, it may be possible for an early manned landing mission to be performed if a two launch architecture with the Orion and lander sent separately to the Moon for a lunar rendezvous to allow crew transfer, or, alternatively with an Earth Orbital Rendezvous (EOR) to join Orion up with the lander and a transfer stage in LEO.

 

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