China tests vertical landing of small rocket from barge at sea

China's own version of SpaceX's Grasshopper

A commercial division of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has successfully test flown its own a very small version of SpaceX’s Grasshopper, doing a vertical lift off from a barge at sea and then landing vertically on that barge.

The rocket prototype flew at an altitude of more than 1,000 meters, descended in a smooth hovering fashion and then decelerated thanks to the engine reverse thrust. The landing speed was reduced to less than two meters per second at the final stage before the rocket touched down steadily with a landing precision of under 10 meters.

The landing test took about 10 minutes, the CAS institute revealed.

The small scale of the rocket, as shown by the screen capture above, taken from the short video CAS produced of the flight, shows that CAS is a long way yet from using this technology in an orbital flight. Nonetheless, it demonstrates that at least two Chinese pseudo-companies are working hard to copy SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 first stage. With this test CAS has demonstrated it now has the software and fine engine control for vertical rocket landings. Based on the image of its proposed rockets at this tweet, this prototype will eventually lead to the development of larger orbital versions that look remarkably similar to what SpaceX produces.

China launches new rocket

The new colonial movement: The Chinese Academy of Science today successfully completed the first launch of Lijian-1, a new four stage solid fueled rocket, placing six satellites into orbit.

The Chinese state press announcement is here. I am using the name of the rocket from this source.

The rocket is an upgrade of a “road-mobile” ICBM, and can place two tons into orbit, making it the largest solid-fueled rocket in China’s arsenal of rockets. It launched from a pad built especially for it at China’s interior Jiuquan spaceport, which means it dumped its first, second, and maybe its third stages on Chinese territory.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

33 SpaceX
25 China
9 Russia
5 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise still leads China 46 to 25, and the entire globe combined 46 to 41.