Space News: China's Moon Rocket, Space X Starship SN8

Garrett Hoang STEM Dec 02, 2020

China's moon rocket, the Chang’e 5 (also called the Long March 5) launched on Tuesday. It's on its way to the moon right now and is expected to return from its 23 day mission on December 17th with lunar samples carrying valuable information for scientists down on earth.

Chang’e 5 lifted from the pad with four strap-on boosters burning highly refined kerosine known as RP-1 mixed with liquid oxygen, or LOX. Its core stage uses a different kind of fuel, Hydrogen. Hydrogen burns cleaner than almost all other rocket fuels, its only exhaust is heat and water vapor. The core stage burns for 490 seconds, incredibly long for a first stage of a rocket.

China's Chang’e 5 moon rocket. Credit:篁竹水声, CC by 4.0

With more exciting news, Space X has plans to test their revolutionary starship rocket, which is set to be the first fully reusable rocket in human history. You might ask “Well, wasn’t the Space Shuttle reusable?”. The Space Shuttle was not really “reusable” but rather refurbishable. After each flight they would destroy the two huge white boosters and massive orange fuel tank then have to replace every single one of the 900 black silica tiles of its underbelly in addition to repairing the engines of the shuttle as well. This process took 1.5 billion dollars per launch. SpaceX hopes to have the starship rocket land and not need any sort of refurbishment whatsoever—for it to be able to just takeoff, return, fuel up and repeat.

Space X has already fired the engines of the SN8 although the heat from the three engines caused parts of the pad to fly up and hit the engines, causing damage. The SN8 will do a landing maneuver never seen before, falling to the pad belly first, igniting the engines to face upward, and then swinging back to land vertically in what is called a “Bellyflop maneuver”. You can watch a simulated version of the flight here.  The Falcon 9 rocket is  another reusable rocket. It approaches and lands engines down without doing any flips in the process. The Falcon 9 lights up the engines at the last second it can then touches down on the pad. Watch a Falcon 9 land here.

To learn more, a great source of in-depth, nerdy, accurate information is The Everyday Astronaut. His Youtube channel is a great starting place for beginning rocket nerds, as well as right here in my column withThe Current! Check back  for next week's space news!

Garrett Hoang

Garrett, a junior, is a photographer for The Current. He loves computers, philosophy, and is a huge rocket nerd. He believes in showing people the purest image of the world.

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