The competition heats up: According to a report in a Chinese newspaper today, China is developing preliminary designs for a new rocket that would be the most powerful ever built.
According to an earlier report by China News Service, Liang Xiaohong, deputy head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, disclosed that the Long March-9 is planned to have a maximum payload of 130 tons and its first launch will take place around 2028.
Liang urged the government to include the Long March-9’s development in its space agenda as soon as possible so that China’s rocket technologies will not lag behind those of other space powers.
Whether this rocket every gets built is highly doubtful. The article seems to mostly be both a public relations response to the U.S.’s test flight on Friday of Orion as well as an example of a government agency lobbying for a bigger budget. (This lobbying happens even in communist China.)
Nonetheless, we should not dismiss the possibility lightly. As competition causes the cost of building all rockets to drop, it will be more affordable to build bigger rockets. By the next decade building a heavy lift rocket might finally be affordable.