Popular Science reports that China’s planning to use large sea-going freighters and heavy military transport planes to launch space exploration rockets starting next year.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC) will reportedly use 10,000-ton freighters as launch pads for its Long March 11 launch rocket. The Long March 11 can carry up to 1,100 pounds into low-earth orbit.
“Eastern Arsenal” bloggers Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer say the idea is use freighters to fire the rockets near the equator to save on fuel and loft bigger payloads.
The other option is for an airborne launch. The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology announced this month that they’re developing a solid-fueled space launch rocket to be dropped from the Y-20, a heavy Chinese military transport plane. The rocket itself is expected to weigh about 60 tons (the Y-20’s payload is 66 tons) and has a low Earth orbit payload of 220 pounds.
“If you’re dropping a rocket from an airplane, as opposed to the launching from ground, the rocket’s first stage can be smaller, which means it’ll be more efficient and could handle a larger payload. That means greater flexibility and a potentially quicker launch — both considerable military advantages,” PopSci said.