Videos: Chinese Launch of Reusable Winged Suborbital Tech Demonstrator Rocket

  • Saturn1300

    Wonder if on the trailer is before or after. Like a model winged rocket? Wings keep straight. The rocket glides back and lands by RC or computer it looks like.

    Here is my theory of what happened on another reusable rocket the Amos F9.
    1. The helium tank was marginal on pressure. They had always loaded LOX to flight pressure then loaded the helium.

    2. They loaded the helium tank when the LOX tank was full, but not at flight pressure.
    3. No flight pressure to keep the pressure below the helium tank bursting point.
    4. It blows over pressurizing the LOX tank. The inter-tank bulkhead blows and over-pressurizes the kerosene tank. The access hatches blow releasing the LOX and kerosene. They mix and static electricity ignites the cloud.

    5. Since the explosion was not contained there was not much of a pressure wave. Also F-9 was inside the explosion so not much pressure.

    6. F-9 was still standing and fuel was burning. Amos set for 10 sec or so but finally fell over. When it hit the ground the hypergolic fuel combined and exploded like a 2000lb bomb went off and destroyed F-9.
    There were other explosions. Like the destruct explosives that cooked off and sent pieces flying all over and puncturing the 1st stage tanks which made another large burst of flame. The kerosene tanks may or may not have ever exploded. The LOX and kerosene must have mixed from the 1st stage and made an explosion.The air fuel mix may have never got right to explode. The fuel just poured out and burned. The LOX did increase the flames.
    Yes I know, maybe but it may not have happened that way. I am going to copy and save and print this so the next time I can check my theory because I sure will not remember it all. You might also do that.

    If you see anything that is impossible let me know. Or have something to add.

  • savuporo

    Its about time someone tried to actually build the Baikal. Russians obviously cant afford to

  • Saturn1300

    Almost three years after an explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9
    destined for the International Space Station, NASA has released the
    findings of their independent review team. The public summary report details the 2015 explosion pointing to a “design error” as the cause of the explosion that destroyed the vehicle.

    The nineteenth Falcon 9 mission lifted off from Cape Canaveral on June
    28, 2015, at 14:23 GMT (09:23 EST). The rocket performed as expected for
    over two minutes until a white vapour cloud was spotted emanating from
    the Falcon 9’s second stage at T+140. Ten seconds later at T+150, the
    vehicle began to break up and the Dragon capsule was ejected from the
    wreckage of the Falcon 9.

    Although the Dragon capsule was pushed clear of the blast, software
    that controlled the capsule did not include provisions to deploy
    parachutes under those conditions. The result was a total loss of the

    Video Player



    Following the incident, SpaceX formed an Accident Investigation Team
    (AIT) to determine the cause of the vehicle’s failure. Officials from
    NASA, the US Air Force and the FAA were all assigned to work with the

    According to the report, investigators discovered that the white
    vapour and accompanying drop in LOX tank pressure pointed to a failure
    of the Stage 2 composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV). It was also
    found that the failure was caused when an axial strut supporting the
    tank broke free. The investigation further concluded that the struct had
    broken free as a result of the failure of a single cast stainless steel
    eye bolt.

    Once the COPV had broken free, its buoyancy caused it to accelerate
    and impact the LOC dome. The force from the impact caused structural
    damage which quickly caused the vehicle to break up under load.

    These findings detailed in the NASA public summary are, however not
    new. A report released by SpaceX detailed the same events that lead up
    to the destruction of the Falcon 9. The SpaceX report also identified
    the failure of the cast stainless steel eye bolt. Where the two reports
    differ is why the bolt failed.

    SpaceX officials had blamed a third-party manufacturing fault
    resulting in the bolt being below acceptable thresholds. However, the
    NASA report identifies the launch provider’s insistence on using
    industrial instead of aerospace grade parts in their pursuit of lower
    costs as a “design fault”. Additionally, the report cites inadequate
    “load testing of the part under predicted flight conditions” as a
    contributing factor.

    Following the 2015 failure, the Falcon 9 was redesigned to negate the deficiencies identified by both SpaceX and NASA.

    Image Credit: SpaceX | Video Credit: NASA
    Using a cast industrial bolt instead of an aircraft bolt? It is not a safety problem. It is a dummy problem with SpaceX.

  • duheagle

    I quite agree with your point about the Russians.

    But this isn’t exactly Baikal. For one thing, the wings seem to be fixed, not deployable, which imposes a significant efficiency penalty. Baikal was also going to incorporate an air-breathing engine for flyback. I see no evidence of one in this Chinese design. To be fair, even the second video is not very big on vehicle details – no lingering slow close-up pans along the length of the trailered vehicle for example.

    While the second video is far more informative than the first – and has a nifty musical background track too – that’s a pretty low bar to get over and there are many questions it doesn’t address. I’ve already noted the presence/absence issue anent an air-breathing flyback engine, for instance.

    Other issues:

    1) A “successful” flyback test presumably actually flew back and landed at a pre-planned point. If so, this should have been captured from multiple camera setups for engineering analysis purposes – use in media PR would be just a desirable extra. As SpaceX has long since demonstrated, landing footage tends to be even more impressive than launch footage. Yet neither video includes any landing footage. Why? One potential reason is that this is actually a military test being conducted in civvies. Another potential reason, independent of the first, is that the test didn’t actually work as claimed.

    2) It would be nice to know what the rocket technology is that is employed. The vehicle seemed to step out rather smartly, something more characteristic of solid-fueled military missiles pushing rugged warheads than of liquid-fueled civilian rockets pushing much more fragile spacecraft payloads. Is this merely one more of the many Chinese “private start-up” rocket companies that are transparently creatures of the PLA?

  • Saturn1300

    I did a search on NTSB and USAF and NASA report on Falcon 9 pad explosion. Nothing new.

  • duheagle

    Yes, NASA likely would see such a decision as a “design error.” NASA, after all, was part of the legion of government bureaucrats who have been mostly responsible for making “aerospace grade” parts so infernally expensive, compared to so-called “industrial” parts. The only difference, in many cases, between said parts that fall into one category as opposed to the other, is the mountain of provenance paperwork required of “aerospace grade” parts. Other than that, said parts are often made by the same workers on the same machines and of the same materials.

    In the case of the CRS-7 failure, the problem was that some of the bolts in question didn’t even meet minimal specs. That would have been a problem regardless of how well their pedigree was papered.

  • duheagle

    Point 3 is nonsense. The difference between even no pressure and flight pressure is irrelevant. For your scenario to make sense, SpaceX would have had to be running the helium COPV’s very near their burst pressure – far beyond their rated service pressure. That simply wasn’t the case. In fact, if memory serves, the actual failure mechanism involved running the helium tanks, initially, at a fairly low pressure such that non-uniform contraction of the metal inner liner opened gaps between the liner and the overwrap such that LOX got in between. Then, when the helium pressure rose, the trapped LOX put asymmetric stress on the overwrap causing breakage of some of the carbon fibers. The energy of these fiber failures was sufficient, in the presence of LOX, to ignite the overwrap. Combustion/explosion gases quickly ruptured the LOX tank and then everything else followed in train.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Looks a lot more like the Starbooster design Buzz Aldrin was working it.

  • ReSpaceAge


    That’s one BAD ASS rocket/missile.

    I jumped off the pad!!!


  • Vladislaw

    And this has what to do with a chinese reusable suborbital rocket?

  • Vladislaw

    Why are you turning THIS article about China’s rocket programs into a hash up about spaceX .. what about staying even remotely on topic?

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    You’re leaving out the other difference between aerospace grade hardware and industrial grade hardware. The frequency between spectacular failures, or as you put it “No good, very bad days.” is much lower with aerospace grade parts. From your point of view, what you should be arguing with people is how many vehicles and people we should be willing to lose in the name of keeping costs down.

  • duheagle

    You are making an assertion based on no provided evidence. SpaceX vehicles have proven very reliable and one of the reasons this is so is that SpaceX, itself, makes nearly all its own parts in-house. The CRS-7 failure simply suggests the company might have been better off, in this instance, going one level lower anent such vertical integration.

    But it’s the small, simple parts – nuts and bolts being classic examples – where the often superior economics of vertical integration anent larger components tends to cease. SpaceX has, no doubt, implemented improved receiving and testing protocols for externally-sourced parts since CRS-7, but I still doubt the company sees any value in paying exorbitant rates for parts that each simply happen to be accompanied by a pallet of ritual paperwork.

    The actual failure probability of a part is a function of many things – none of which include the tonnage of testimonial paperwork that accompanies it. The exclusive use of “aerospace grade” parts is not a magical bulwark against failure. The U.S. legacy contractors had plenty of failures long before SpaceX came along. The so-called “certification” processes in place are rituals, not engineering.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Keep living in your dream world. SpaceX has failures in flight and on the pad that established aerospace has not had for some time. I think there’s a ligit argument to be had for cutting corners vs acceptable loss.But for you to assume there is no such price. Well … okay. Noted.

  • windbourne

    thank you.

  • Q Tig

    I think you are exactly right. In the second video it looks like it has an inlet scoop so this is more likely a rocket boosted airbreathing scramjet. In fact it looks nearly identical to the USAF ARRW

  • duheagle

    Interesting. Then it might not even be a launch vehicle at all, but one of China’s much-vaunted hypersonic weapons platforms we’ve been hearing so much about lately. That would also explain the lack of landing footage.

  • duheagle

    SpaceX failures – except for the early failed landing-on-ASDS tests, have been singletons; said failures are quickly fixed and not repeated. Considering the amount of innovating SpaceX is doing, its record is very good. The only other company with a better record to-date is ULA and even it has had some near-misses and less-than-complete-failure anomalies. ArianeSpace has more failures on its backtrail than SpaceX. So does NGIS. And these are all venerable firms doing things the “right” way.

    It’s not me who’s living in a dreamworld.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I don’t disagree with a lot of what you say, however these RUD’s keep coming. A RUD every few years is fine for machine payloads. You’ll only drive a customer or two out of business every once and a while. Not a biggie, it’s a loss worth gambling with. With the expectations that come with putting people at risk in that kind of gamble? ???? Don’t be surprised if the greater community does not share your level of risk taking.

  • duheagle

    So long as said RUD’s occur during testing, as this latest one did, I’m not overly concerned. This RUD isn’t going to recur any more than any of SpaceX’s others have. RUD’s in testing are embarrassing and expensive, but that’s not fatal – to SpaceX or any human. As it has before, SpaceX will run this RUD to ground and stomp on it.

    Once both D2 and Starliner are flying regularly, maybe Boeing and SpaceX engineers can hoist a few cold ones together and commiserate about their separate abort system teething problems. Boeing’s issue didn’t turn into a RUD, but it easily might have – spilled hypergolics are no joke. Sometimes luck is with you and sometimes it isn’t.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    This was a flight article that was critical for the advancement of the program. Not only will there be the time to figure out what went wrong, but there will be the time to replace the loss then integrate and test the changes that constitute the fix. Then given it’s the launch escape system, what tests will have to be re-run? Will they need to re test the pad launch? The orbital test too? Established aerospace has known how to handle NTO/UDMH for decades without this kind of loss.

    As for the magic of BF(x) we just saw the kind of delay that’s going to hit that program, and probably already is. SpaceX had applications in to the FAA for a flight of that hopper months ago, it never flew and they’re not even trying anymore. Remember when flights without a nose cone were only a week or so away? I think that program is already hitting the kinds of difficulty that everyone else runs into when you are developing a new technology base from scratch.