Space transport has big plans. The Chinese company Space Transportation is developing a "winged rocket" for space tourism.
"We are developing a cruise missile for high-speed point-to-point transportation that is cheaper than satellite-carrying rockets and faster than conventional aircraft," the company said in a recent interview with Yicheng Times.
The spaceplane will be aimed at providing fast travel between two points on Earth via suborbital travel and will be fully reusable.
A video presentation on the Space Transportation website shows the ambitious plans. It shows animated passengers boarding an aircraft attached to a rocket-powered wing. After VTOL, the aircraft separates from the rocket-powered wing and continues its suborbital flight to Dubai in the Middle East, landing vertically on three rear-facing legs.
The company, whose full name is Beijing Lingkong Tianxing Technology Co., Ltd., announced that ground testing is scheduled for 2023, first flight for 2024, and crewed flight for 2025.
According to the company, a test flight of a crewed global or orbital spacecraft is planned by 2030. Space Transportation was founded in 2018, according to the company's website.
It seems a little unexpected, but the plans didn't come out of the blue. Space Transportation announced last August that it had raised $46.3 million for its hypersonic spaceplane plans, and the company recently conducted a series of tests on its Tianxing 1 and Tianxing 2 vehicles. The 10th flight test was conducted on January 23, followed by followed by another test in collaboration with the combustion laboratory belonging to Tsinghua University.
Details on these test flights have been limited, perhaps due to the sensitive nature of hypersonic technology.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), China's main space contractor, conducted highly secret suborbital and orbiter launch tests from the Jiuquan Space Center in 2020 and 2021 as part of the space plane development program.