China’s state-run press today revealed that a full duration test has been successfully completed of the rocket engine that will be used by the core first stage of the Long March 5B rocket that will launch the next two modules for China’s Tiangong space station.
Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the engine is designed for the core stage of the Long March-5 carrier rocket series, which will be used to launch two lab modules of China’s orbiting Tiangong space station this year.
The long-range test, lasting 520 seconds, has verified the reliability of the engine, and there will be more than 20 experimental tasks that the rocket engine will undergo to further test its performance, the company disclosed.
Though this short press release does not say, it implies that this new engine is restartable, something that on previous launches of the Long March 5B was not possible for the core stage. This lack meant that once the core stage lifted and deployed its payload into orbit, it no longer had an engine that could control it. It would within weeks crash to Earth, threatening many habitable areas around the globe. This lack also resulted in a lot of very bad press for China.
If this new engine is restartable, it means that China will be able to de-orbit it in a controlled manner, over the ocean. If so, hallelujah! It means China will finally be honoring its obligations under the Outer Space Treaty.
If not, than China will continue to prove that it is an unreliable and dangerous player on the world stage.
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