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Tuesday, August 2, 2016, 22:02

Researchers plan space travel for common people

By Guo Kai

Researchers plan space travel for common people
A screenshot shows an artist's impression of the new vehicle integrating different kinds of engine technologies. (Photo/

Chinese scientists are researching a new type of aerospace vehicle that will take even those who have never had training to space in about 10 years' time at a much lower cost compared to the current price.

China Central Television (CCTV) reported Monday that scientists from China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation have started work on a new vehicle integrating different kinds of engine technologies.

The vehicle will integrate air-breathing engines, such as turbine and ramjet engines, and rocket engine, which would allow it to operate as a normal plane in the atmosphere and as a rocket in space.

Researchers said the new vehicle will be reusable and take off and land at normal airports, without the need for special launch pads like the current rockets require, which will reduce cost substantially.

Zhang Yong, a scientist from the corporation, said they expect to master key technologies in about three to five years, and significantly improve the vehicle's capability during the application.

The vehicle is expected to be used for suborbital flight and orbital insertion by 2030, Zhang said. The expeditions will be between dozens to hundreds of kilometers from the earth.

Compared with the space shuttles and the partially recovered carrier rockets, the new vehicle integrating different engines has much more advantages in maintenance and application, CCTV reported.

In early July, China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, an institute of the corporation, said on its website that it was coordinating with other institutes to study the new vehicle.

Yang Yang, an engineer of the institute, said that common people will not need special training to travel to space on the vehicle.

He said the current rocket engine provides great propulsion during the start of flight, adding overload times of people's weights, which is unbearable for most people, but people would be able to endure the slow acceleration on the new vehicle.

Currently, people enjoy real space travels through two ways - the suborbital flight that allows people to enjoy couple of minutes of weightlessness but it costs more than $100,000 and the orbital flight that costs around $20 million.

Some private companies, especially in the US, can provide suborbital flights. But if people want an orbital flight, then they would have to go on a Russian space ship at present.

The US company SpaceX's carrier rocket with reusable parts has started cargo service to the International Space Station, but it is still unclear when it will be able to provide private space travel service and it might cost tens of millions, according to reports.

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