China’s making Long March 9, a super-heavy rocket intended for sending humans to the moon and Mars


Space has been in the news as of late and while both the UAE and China had missions arrive at the red planet this month, NASA offers the most spectacular footage. But China’s also got its sights set on the final frontier in a larger capacity. To that end, the country has revealed plans for a new super-heavy rocket, called Long March 9 (also known as CZ-9), which is intended to get humans from this rock we live on to other rocks, far, far away.

The Long March 9 to freedom

The existence of the rocket system was revealed this week by the country’s CCTV, in an interview with Wu Yanhua, deputy director of China’s CNSA. The tweet above includes a bit of the interview, as well as an animation of how they’d eventually like the rocket to function. It involves a main core helped along by four boosters that will eventually separate and drop back to Earth. And, like SpaceX, the CNSA would like to make those boosters reusable.

Ars Technica has a few additional details about the proposed rocket system. It’s only just going into development so there’s nothing to see just yet, but China hopes to be able to loft some 140 tons into low-earth orbit and wants to send 50 tons into a lunar orbit — to build a moon base, naturally. That’ll call for some substantial hardware.

The proposed rocket would need a ten-metre diameter, while each of its four boosters would have to measure five metres through the middle. It would outmatch the largest of NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rockets and even Elon Musk’s Starship might find itself feeling a little nervous in Long March 9’s presence.

But, for now, nobody has to worry too much. The timeline for CZ-9’s first flight (which probably won’t include any reusable sections — that’ll come later) is 2030 or so. Which is just in time to get China to Mars — they certainly seem rather keen on the idea.


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