China wants to catch up to US rockets in 2020 and then get nuclear spaceships in 2045

China plans a fleet of nuclear carrier rockets and reusable hybrid-power carriers by the mid-2040s. They will be ready for regular, large scale interplanetary flights, and carrying out commercial exploration and exploitation of natural resources by the mid-2040s.

China plans to catch up with the United States on conventional rocket technology by 2020.

If Spacex and Elon Musk achieve fully reusable rockets with the Falcon 9 or the BFR in the 2020-2022 timeframe then China would be 13-15 years behind if they hit their target for reusable rockets in 2035.

By 2030, China will put astronauts on the moon and bring samples back from Mars.

China’s space transportation system road map:
  By 2020, China’s mainstream rocket has reached the international first-class level and provides diversified commercial launch services globally.

  By 2025, the successful development of reusable suborbital vehicles in China has made sub-orbital space travel a reality. Suborbital generally refers to airspace 20-100 km above the ground, between the highest flight altitude of an existing aircraft and the lowest orbital altitude of a satellite;

  By the year 2030, the heavy launch vehicles will make their first flight and the level and capability of the space transport system will enter the ranks of the world’s space powers. 100 ton capacity heavy lift rockets by 2030.

  By 2035, launch vehicles will be fully reusable

  By 2040, the next generation of launch vehicles will be put into operation, and the space transportation system will achieve many interstellar roundtrips over a long period of time.

  By 2045, our country has the capability of large-scale man-machine exploration space, and the equipment and technology as a whole are in the leading position in the world and will give full support to the full realization of the goal of becoming a powerful nation in space.

China’s 2030 heavy-duty launch vehicle will have a diameter of nearly 10 meters in the future and will use a liquid-oxygen kerosene engine with a thrust of 500 tons and a liquid-hydrogen liquid oxygen engine with a thrust of 220 tons.

In other words, in the future the capability of our country’s launch vehicles will increase 4 to 5 times from the current 20 tons to 100 tons.

China’s existing rockets have a diameter of 5 meters.

There are no details about what kind of nuclear rocket design is being proposed. However, it would likely be either a nuclear thermal rocket for launching heavier payloads and going more quickly to other planets or a nuclear electric system for moving beyond earth orbit.

12 thoughts on “China wants to catch up to US rockets in 2020 and then get nuclear spaceships in 2045”

  1. Nah. Don’t focus on government efforts. They are doomed to conservatism and mired in can’t fail attitudes. Look to their startups. That’s where the action will be.

  2. If building spacecraft was as easy as issuing a press release, the United States would have cities on Mars by now.

  3. I hope China succeeds and becomes a major player in space. I hope all the worlds countries do. The faster we get off this ball of mud the happier I’ll be. I wouldn’t expect help from companies like SpaceX though as long a China has state owned industries that will try to rip off their tech. If it wasn’t for that Elon Musk would probably build them in China as well as the US where his designs are protected by law.

  4. Talk is cheap. Until China actually demonstrates those technologies with real flying hardware, nobody will take those claims seriously. I hope they would- It would be another Sputnik moment that would galvanize the rest of the world into real competition like what resulted in the Apollo program.

  5. To what end? To treat the Moon or Ceres as a submerged reef?

    The better thing for humanity is for better governing philosophy to win out, and that leaves China’s dirigisme, however soft the velvet glove, wanting.

    • Heh, that’s a good one. I can imagine China trying to slap some asteroids together to make their own extra moon (“Planet Xi”), while declaring it Chinese territory. It will be called “One Planet, One Moon” and China will pull out some 3000-year-old “document” called the “9-Planet Line” to claim ancient historical basis for ownership over cis-lunar space.

    • While I love democracy and want the Western values to win and endure, there’s a good portion of the world that would say -with proof- that China’s approach is working.

      It may seem premature, but seeing where things may be going, it’s very likely a big thematic philosophical discussion of the current century, and probably the next one, will be about which countries and cultures endured and develop(ed) the most prosperous polities and nations in space.

      Because such values and attitudes will be tested over there. We are not going with an empty baggage, but with all those ideals and approaches to life and governance with us.

    • China, or Russia, or the USA, or Moldovia for that matter, building artificial planets out of asteroids would be a major advance for humanity in my books.
      Even if it was for some dodgy politico-military point scoring.

  6. Interstellar trips by 2040 may be a bit of an overstatement or something was lost in translation.

    But it’s good to see they have ambitions. China has always been patient in its approach to space, but slowly yet surely, they deliver.

    Are they feeling a bit urged by Elon Musk’s grandilocuent speeches and plans?

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