Beijing: China is planning to use pollution- free propellants to launch its next generation carrier rockets to support its ambitious space programmes like setting up of permanent space station.
The rockets, fuelled by liquid oxygen, diesel and liquid hydrogen, will make their maiden flights within the next two years, Chairman of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the main contractor for the country's space program, Lei Fanpei said.
The next generation rockets will include the heavy Long March-5 and the smaller Long March-7, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
It will take about 15 years for an overall upgrading, the agency quoted Lei as saying.
The Long March-5 will have a payload capacity of 25 tonnes to low Earth orbits or 14 tonnes to geostationary transfer orbit, about twice the current capacity, and could be a serious competitor to the US Delta-4H, he said.
The Long March-7 will carry up to 13.5 tonnes to low Earth orbit or 5.5 tonnes to sun-synchronous orbit at a height of 700 km.
It will carry cargo craft for the planned space station. Its maiden flight should be next year, he said.
China is also planning to build a much bigger rocket, Long March-9, for bigger missions.
China is conducting preliminary research on a super-heavy launch vehicle that will be used in its manned missions to the moon, state-run China Daily reported.
"We are discussing the technological feasibility and requirements of the Long March-9 and research on the solutions to some technical difficulties have started," said Li Tongyu, head of aerospace products at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.
"Its specifications will mostly be determined by a host of factors, including the government's space plan and the nation's overall industrial capability, as well as its engine's development," he said .
The Long March-9's diameter and height will be much larger than that of the Long March-5 and its thrust will also be much stronger, he said.
"Our current launch vehicles, including the Long March-5, which is set to conduct its first launch soon, will be able to undertake the country's space activities planned for the coming 10 years but for the nation's long-term space programs, their capabilities will not be enough," he said emphasising the necessity and significance of a super-heavy rocket.
"In addition, the cryogenic engine using liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer (designed for the Long March-5) is not powerful enough for the Long March-9, so we need to develop a brand new engine for it to make sure the rocket has sufficient thrust," he said.