China is developing a rocket stage and engine recovery system at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing.
It uses using a set of multiple parachutes, which are stored in the first stage of the rocket, which is released from the rest of the craft before it burns its way through the Earth’s atmosphere.
An airbag inflates under the discarded part of the rocket, which cushions impact when it finally hits the ground.
In 2011, Spacex tried to use parachutes for a stage recovery. Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president, admitted in 2011: “We have recovered pieces of the first stages.” The first stages weren’t even getting as far as deploying their parachutes – they were breaking up during atmospheric re-entry.
A similar program was announced by Roscosmos in mid-2016 when they formed a department dealing with the returned systems. China and Russia may cooperate on recoverable and reusable rocket stage development.
The initial miniparachute system has to prevent the stage from breaking up and needs to stabilize it for re-entry.
SpaceX has performed a series of successful vertical landings (rockets used to slow down and land the stage) which demonstrate the technology the feasibility, but Chinese paper has rejected the approach.
Deng wrote that the vertical landing system needed additional fuel for landing, which icons rockets could only carry smaller payloads into space.
The Falcon rocket development is to increase the thrust and reduce the number of rocket engine. That is also why China, As well as airbus, Boeing and Lockheed Martin did not use the technology, “Deng said.
China has yet to the official rule out the vertical landing technology to recover rockets, according to Xinhua. A final decision will be made before 2020, the report said.
The final goal was to hit a small recovery zone as exactly as the vertical landing zone, which will be assisted by multiple sensors and a sophisticated flight control system to guide the descent.
Professor Sun Yi, the director of the aerospace science and mechanics department at the Harbin Institute of Technology, said he had concerns about the parachute-assisted landing system as it could have a miss a target area in high winds.
“Falcon 9 can be brought back to the launch pad, or even land on a ship. With a parachute you may hit a mountain top or end up in thick forest on a tropical island,” he said.
Sun also doubted whether the air bag could significantly adequate impact during the landing of a heavy rocket.
“Even a mild shock can cause damage to the components in rocket engines,” he said.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.