China’s state press today revealed that during the July 19th launch of its Long March 2C rocket it was able to successfully use parachutes and a control system in the rockets discarded fairings to guide them back to Earth more precisely and to land softly.
The technology tested in the fairing was a parachute-control electrical and parachute system to monitor the status of the reentry flight in real-time. With the new technology, when a fairing falls to a certain height and meets the conditions suitable for parachute deployment, the parachute opens to decelerate the fairing.
At a certain height of descent, a fairing will discard its drag chute, open its parafoil, and initiate deceleration a second time. During its slowdown, it will land in a safe area in a controlled manner.
CALVT [China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology] said the technology was able to reduce the fairing’s original projected landing area by more than 80 percent, which significantly improved safety and reduced evacuation pressure in the area.
Does this technology remind you of anything? To me, it appears that China has watched what SpaceX has done and attempted to copy it.
The news release did not say if the fairing was damaged in landing. I suspect that it was damaged, or they would have told us otherwise.
Combined with the previously attempts to use parachutes and grid fins (also very similar to SpaceX’s) to control the landing of abandoned Long March 2C and 3B first stages, China is clearly trying to make their launches from within their country less dangerous to their own citizens. Even if they have not yet succeeded in bringing this rocket debris back intact so it can be reused, they are still gaining control of its re-entry so that they can not only predict more precisely where it will land, they can pick the spot.
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