China tests rocket engine for moon landing as space race heats up

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China has upped its game in the space race by testing a new rocket engine twice as powerful as its American competitor.

The ground test was carried out with “complete success”, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation announced on Tuesday.

The engine will be used to launch the Long March 9 rockets and propel astronauts on future missions to the Moon. The Long March rockets are a family of non-durable launch system rockets. It is named after an event during the Chinese Civil War in 1934 in which beleaguered Chinese Communists broke through domestic enemy lines and began a fight from their headquarters in southwest China.

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The Long March 5B Y3 carrier rocket takes off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China’s Hainan Province.

Li Gang/Xinhua via AP

Beijing’s newest rocket engine can produce 25 tons of force, more than double the thrust generated by the RL10, an American-made engine that is expected to return American astronauts to the Moon.

ACCS called Monday’s test the “world’s largest closed expansion cycle engine test” and said it was a major breakthrough in the development of key technology for launchers, the South China Morning Post reported.

Closed expansion cycle rocket engines are believed to be the most efficient power source for human space travel because the engines can turn a small amount of liquid hydrogen into high pressure gas using waste heat , which then forces the turbines to increase the pressure of hydrogen and oxygen in the fuel pumps. From there, the gas enters the top of the combustion chamber and is used as fuel. It is a much more efficient way than the combustion process currently used because it does not require the rocket to carry additional gas.

The United States and China are competing to see which country can send its astronauts to the Moon.

The NASA-led Artemis program plans to send astronauts to the Moon by 2025. To do this, NASA built its most powerful rocket ever, the Space Launch System, which was grounded for the week last.

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China and Russia have teamed up to build an international research station on the Moon and want an astronaut on the lunar surface before 2030.


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