The faster, the better- seems to be the motto of the Chinese firm, Space Transportation, which is developing a “rocket with wings” for space tourism and point-to-point travel.
We are developing a winged rocket for high-speed, point-to-point transportation, which is lower in cost than rockets that carry satellites and faster than traditional aircraft.the company said in a recent interview with Yicheng Times
Basically, a space plane is a vehicle that combines the best of a spacecraft and an aircraft, technically allowing it to function in the atmosphere and space as well.
Apparently, the “spaceplane” being developed by the company can clock 7000 kilometres in an hour at nine times the speed of sound, underlining the ambitious hypersonic capabilities of the vehicle.
According to a video presentation on Space Transportation’s website, animated passengers can be seen boarding the spaceplane attached to a wing powered by rockets. The plane detaches from the rocket-powered wing following a vertical take-off and continues its suborbital journey to Dubai in the Middle East, landing vertically on three legs deployed from the rear.
The Hypersonic Space-plane in the making
Tianxing 1 and Tianxing 2 are the two sub-orbital hypersonic test launch vehicles, launched by the company to conduct preliminary tests, in association with Tsinghua University’s combustion laboratory.
Owing to the sensitive nature of hypersonic technology, much of the details of the tests are classified as of now.
What is known though is that, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)- the country’s major space contractor, have conducted highly covert launch tests of suborbital and orbital vehicles from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in 2020 and 2021, according to Space.com.
A brief history
Though it might appear as news to some, the Chinese work on hypersonic tech is not entirely new.
Space Transportation announced last August that it had raised USD 46.3 million for its hypersonic space plane plans-a hypersonic airliner that would be capable of transporting about 10 passengers to anywhere in the world in just an hour.
The company has recently been conducting several tests of its Tianxing 1 and Tianxing 2 vehicles and a 10th flight test was conducted on January 23.
There have been many reports with regards to hypersonic developments from the Chinese side, much of which have been rubbished by American experts.
Regardless, reports suggest that test flights are set to take place next year, with the first uncrewed flight in 2024 and the first crewed flight to launch the following year.
COVER: China Transportation