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Chinese researchers claim success in new rocket engine flight test

·3 min read

Researchers at one of China's top universities have claimed success in a rocket test that might help fill a technology gap in the country's drive to design and develop a jet engine.

In an announcement on its website, Tsinghua University said engineers and researchers at its school of aerospace engineering launched a two-stage rocket with the new engine on Monday morning.

"The second stage of the rocket took the engine to the predetermined altitude and achieved the required speed," the university said.

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"The engine achieved high efficiency in terms of air import and vaporisation of jet fuel in its combustion chamber, enabling the ignition system to start functioning properly.

"As a result, the combustion chamber and the engine worked steadily and delivered sustainable thrust," it said, hailing the experiment as a success.

Wang Bing, the project leader and a professor at the school, was quoted as saying that the experiment had "key strategic value".

"Through this in-flight experiment we were able to obtain working data and how changes of the environment will affect the operation of the combustion chamber in real in-flight conditions," Wang said.

"This allows us to fully verify the real performance of the engine and put the feasibility of the technology to a real test.

"This achievement will enrich our country's aviation industry, and has key strategic value in the development of a new type of [jet propulsion] power."

Xie Qiaofeng, a member of the project team, said Wang had been instrumental in the engine's advances, "starting from the construction of the test bench".

"It's all worth it, and we believe we'll make a difference in the future," Xie was quoted as saying.

China has for years tried to develop jet engines, an area dominated by Western aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing, and the goal is one of the country's top priorities in its science and technology strategy.

While China has made progress in other parts of the aviation industry, its five-year plan for developing strategic emerging industries highlighted the country's need to strengthen its aviation and aerospace technologies, including "[accelerating] the independent development of aero engines".

In late 2020, Liu Daxiang, from state-owned aerospace company Aviation Industry Corporation of China, said Beijing saw the development of its own jet engines as "a serious and urgent political task" because of rising foreign hostility and competition in the industry.

"Recently we have seen the US making use of its national power to suppress Huawei Technologies, and this tells us that crucial technology cannot be bought, even if you spend big," Liu said.

According to previous statements from Tsinghua, its engineering school set up a company three years ago to oversee the application and production of the engine.

Another company is responsible for the design of the vehicle and implementation of the project.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.