China tests its own grasshopper


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China has completed its first vertical rocket landing test, using a prototype small scale first stage very similar to SpaceX’s Grasshopper test rocket.

If I was cynical, I’d say that this isn’t just similar, it is a direct steal from Grasshopper. But then, that is generally how the Chinese have come up with their new technology, not by creating it themselves, but by stealing ideas from others and then upgrading them.

Either way, this test shows that China is devoting serious energy to making its first stages reusable.

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13 comments

  • Cotour

    I have always monkeyed with the notion that since the Chinese are so keen on advancing their technology through governmental sanctioned and even demanded theft from our military and industrial concerns who actually develop the technology that there should be a concerted effort to disseminate disinformation and faulty related files as to render the advancements things that blow up and can not perform.

    I suppose that a some high level they can tell the difference but it is something that I always thought about to effect at least some devolution instead of evolution.

  • Anthony Domanico

    This development both annoys me and worries me at the same time. When our species looks back one hundred years from now I think they will be disgusted with the priorities of our leaders. I really don’t see any technical reason why the Air Force and/or NASA couldn’t have had low cost reusable launch vehicles decades ago. The parochialism and stagnation have allowed countries like China and India to close the gap significantly. Even in the 70’s it was appreciated that reusable hardware was the future. Are my concernes about China becoming the most dominant power in space justified?

  • Zed_WEASEL

    The test vehicle is got very little in common with anything SpaceX. It is actually similar to the Blue Origin Charon test vehicle. The Chinese vehicle and the Charon are both low altitude and low power test vehicles powered by air breathing turbojets to test out guidance systems with limited flight parameters.

  • Lee S

    The Chinese are doing what what unthinkable a decade or two ago … Space X proved the unthinkable wrong… And the Chinese are picking up on it…. Isn’t that what capitalism is all about? Free market, learning from others mistakes?
    Or should China take no notice and learn no lesson from what’s happening over here…?
    Would the world be a better place without a country with a 50 year space plan, and the political will to see it thru?

  • commodude

    No issues with a country developing a space program, unless, of course, their development includes massive amounts of industrial espionage and other means of theft of IP. It’s not learning from others’ mistakes, it’s theft, hacking, and a lack of IP protection that’s “developing” their space program and their military.

    And yes, I’m STILL pissed about LORAL.

  • wayne

    Lee-
    Chi-coms don’t invent anything, they steal everything!
    Yeah– the world will be a better place, after they are gone, and erased from History.

    America’s Thermonuclear Strike
    https://youtu.be/S-V6MZlyCqE
    2:22

  • Anthony Domanico

    Lee s-

    Yes, it is similar to the Blue Origin vehicle in that it uses a turbojet engine for its primary propulsion. They are still taking an idea that was pioneered here in the west and using it for their own gain. Capitalism isn’t stealing ideas, it’s using fair and open competition, property rights, and innovation as the guiding principles to conduct a country’s economy. Maybe China’s brute force will be enough for a successful space program, but what do you want our future in space to look like? I, for one, want freedom to reign supreme. The Chinese government doesn’t even allow its people to have freedom of religion. Lastly, they did use SpaceX’s idea to use gridfins for aerodynamic control authority during the descent phase. Although gridfins are an old idea, SpaceX was the only one using them in this manner.

  • I don’t have a link (though you can probably find it on QuantumG’s website of the unseemly name, sh*telonsays) but I recall someone asked Musk why he didn’t patent SpaceX designs, and his reply was along the lines of taking out a US patent was the same thing as giving the technology to China. Even when you have the design, that may not help enough. Remember when Russia gave the design docs for the RD-180 to the US, they said, “Build it if you can.” So far? No US engine. Everyone except Blue Origin is between ten and twenty years behind SpaceX. Blue is only five or six years behind, but despite Bezos bucks, won’t close the gap unless the ferociter gets a little less gradatim. I’d say India stands a greater chance of catching up than any US or European company or government entity, unless their executives and bureaucrats are fired en masse and blacklisted from ever working in aerospace again. This is humor but it encapsulates my feelings: NASA will land its first post-Apollo human on the Moon one week after the first SpaceX FTL starship leaves for Delta Pavonis.

  • Edward

    William Barton wrote: “Blue is only five or six years behind, but despite Bezos bucks, won’t close the gap unless the ferociter gets a little less gradatim.

    Musk moves forward quickly, because he is revolutionary rather than evolutionary. An evolutionary philosophy has been a problem in space exploration since the Shuttle was such a disappointment in the 1980s, and NASA is even moving backward with Orion-SLS.

    Musk is not the first to be revolutionary, but he is the most celebrated. The idea of the standardized Cubesat revolutionized small satellite design and the smallsat industry. The Ansari X-Prize was an attempt to get the industry back to thinking in revolutionary ways; and in some way it was a success.

    Unfortunately, Bezos and Branson have money that they can throw at their projects, so they do not have the same incentive as Musk has to develop their systems rapidly and at low cost. Musk wants to do the impossible within his lifetime, which gives him incentive to be revolutionary in order to reach his goal.

    China, on the other hand, is copying other people’s ideas. No evolution or revolution there.

  • Chinese space force

    It shall be noted that this Chinese object used for landing and hovering tests two small air jet engines and no rocket engines. Please note also the blue air-intakes. I would call it a Chinese innovation, if this concept (using special jet engines) is also used later for a full-scale operational reusable rocket stage and not applied to that subscale test model. Its gives the rocket much more time for safe and smooth landing because its fuel consumption is much smaller and it does not consume liquid oxygen, because it operates with air. Is this idea feasible? What do you think? What size does a simple jet engine display, which can deliver 20-30 tons of thrust (suitable for a Falcon 9 first stage)?

  • commodude

    It’s actually lazy engineering and adding needless weight to the concept vehicle if they are in fact going to use air breathing engines. Pointless to pay that weight penalty for an exo-atmospheric vehicle.

  • Anthony Domanico

    Commodude,

    They don’t intend to use this vehicle outside the atmosphere. Although it’s a test vehicle they aren’t testing propulsion. They are trying to learn the guidance, navigation, and control involved with vertical takeoff and landing. So just like Blue Origin did, they are using a turbine based engine as a more convenient replacement for a rocket engine. After all jet engines are commercially available in a myriad of sizes. I believe Blue Origin refurbished old jet engines they purchased from the South African military to perform their testing phase of VTOL.

    As far as using jet engines on a space vehicle, you might find it interesting that Buran, the Russian equivalent to our Shuttle, originally was designed to include jet engines so it could be flown to different locations without a carrier aircraft. The engines were severely underpowered for the task and ultimately removed.

  • commodude

    Anthony, I’m well aware of the intentions of a craft like Grassshopper, I’m more referring to the Chicom propagandist who chose to visit this little slice of the web.

    He’s claiming engineering expediency as a Chinese innovation when the reality is that it’s just a workaround.

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