China successfully test-fired a new liquid-fueled rocket engine capable of generating 240,000 pounds of thrust, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported July 30.
The report, citing government space officials, also said China plans to place a lander on the Moon next year.
The new engine, powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen, will be used on the Long March 5 rocket, expected to debut in 2014, the report said. The new rocket will be able to place payloads weighing up to 25 tons into low Earth orbit and 14 tons into geostationary orbit, Xinhua said.
The Long March 5 will support China’s budding human spaceflight and lunar exploration programs, the report said. China, which has successfully launched two lunar orbiters, plans to place the nuclear-powered Chang’e 3 rover on the Moon’s surface next year. The craft will be equipped with instruments including a radar able to peer beneath the lunar surface, the Xinhua report said.
Plans call for additional robotic missions including Chang’e 5 that will collect and return 2 kilograms of samples from the Moon, Xinhua said.
Meanwhile, the Chang’e 2 lunar orbiter, which launched in 2010 and produced a map of the lunar surface, is now on its way to explore an asteroid.