China announced Thursday that it has developed a new engine for its new generation of carrier rockets, making it the second in the world to harness such engine technologies.
The 120-tonne liquid oxygen/kerosene high-pressure staged combustion cycle engine will provide an effective guarantee for the country's manned space and lunar probe missions, said the State Administration of Science,Technology and Industry for National Defence.
The high-performance engine is non-toxic, pollution-free and reliable.
It boasts 120 tonnes of thrust, making it much more powerful than the 75-tonne-thrust engines of launch vehicles for the already-launched Shenzhou spacecraft, but still far from the 670 tonnes of thrust the United States' F-1 engine boasts, and farther still from 740 tonnes of thrust of Russia's RD-170 engine.
It is the first kind of high-pressure staged combustion cycle engine for which China has proprietary intellectual property rights, said the administration.
It also makes China the second country in the world, after Russia, to grasp the core technologies for a liquid oxygen/kerosene high-pressure staged combustion cycle rocket engine.
The research project for the engine was initiated in September 2000.
It was coordinated and organized by the State Administration of Science,Technology and Industry for National Defence, and conducted by the Academy of Aerospace Propulsion Technology of China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation.
Researchers made more than 70 technical breakthroughs in designing, manufacturing and testing, and obtained nearly 20 national defense scientific and technical achievements along with patent licenses. They also worked on nearly 50 kinds of new material.
According to a government white paper issued at the end of last year, China will develop next-generation launch vehicles, including the Long March-5, Long March-6 and Long March-7, in the 2011-2015 period.
The Long March-5 will use a non-toxic and pollution-free propellant, and will be capable of placing a 25-tonne payload into near-Earth orbit, or placing a 14-tonne payload into geostationary orbit.
The announcement of the new rocket engine came just days before China will launch the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, which will perform a manual space docking with the orbiting Tiangong-1 lab module.
The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft will be launched by the Long March-2F carrier rocket.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the creation of China's manned space program. The launch of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft marks the program's 10th launch and the country's fourth manned spaceflight.