China plans to catch its reusable rockets with constricting wires (video)

China wants to start reusing its rockets for space missions and aims to catch them using wires.

Reusable rockets are being developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the country’s state-owned main space contractor. CASC makes China’s Long March rockets.

The space and defense giant aims to debut its first two reusable rockets in 2025 and 2026. These appear to be linked to China’s lunar and human spaceflight plans.

Related: China will launch giant, reusable rockets next year to prep for human missions to the moon

Still from an animation showing a white rocket landing on a dark ship at sea

Still from an animation showing a white rocket landing on a dark ship at sea

While inspired by the overwhelming success of the SpaceX Falcon 9, China’s approach will be slightly different. The rocket’s first stage will still use variable-thrust engines to slow its descent, just like the Falcon 9. But instead of using landing legs, the rocket will deploy hooks near its top, which will be caught by tightwires.

A video released by state media China Central Television (CCTV) shows a human-rated rocket, the Long March 10, with the tell-tale, cross-shaped crew escape system on top, lifting off. Its core stage then demonstrates a reentry burn and guidance using grid fins.


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Finally, the rocket stage guides itself, using retropropulsion, to a sea landing stage, where it is caught by the tightening wires as it descends.

CASC is far from the only group in China working on reusable rockets. Commercial firms including Landspace, CAS Space (backed by state-owned Chinese Academy of Sciences), Galactic Energy, iSpace and Deep Blue Aerospace are developing their own reusable rockets.

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