China tests more powerful rocket engine

July 30, 2012 at 5:46 PM
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XI'AN, China, July 30 (UPI) -- China says it has successfully tested a new engine for a more powerful rocket that will pave the way for building a space station and even lunar exploration.

The engine, producing 120-tons of thrust burning liquid oxygen and kerosene, was tested Sunday in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, China Daily reported.

The test was to determine how the engine would respond to rotational speeds of nearly 20,000 rpm and temperatures of 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 3 minutes.

The engine is intended to power the Long March 5 carrier rocket -- set for a first launch in 2014 -- to lift a 25-ton payload into near-Earth orbit or put a 14-ton payload into a higher geostationary orbit, experts said.

Current Long March carrier rockets only have a 75-ton thrust, Tan Yonghua, head of Xi'an Aerospace Propulsion Institute, said.

The new engine's extra thrust will enable China to assemble a space station and also be used as part of a lunar exploration program, institute officials said.

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