At present, the development of manned spacecraft can be reused, mainly in two major directions.
One is to make the spacecraft combine the characteristics of spacecraft and aircraft at the same time, orbiting in space, and flying or unpowered gliding through the wing in the atmosphere. The characteristics of this type of spacecraft are strong operability, wide application range and easy recycling, which represent the main development trend in the future, but it is difficult to develop.
In the past, the US space shuttle was the representative of this type of spacecraft, and now it is headed by the X-37B orbiter. In addition, the “air plane” that is loved by aerospace fans also belongs to this category.
The other type of manned spacecraft, which is widely used today, has little difference in shape, launching mode and recycling route, but various new technologies have been adopted to enable the spacecraft to be reused in a short time. Such as reusable power technology, high-strength lightweight main structure technology, lightweight low-ablative thermal protection material technology, non-destructive landing recycling technology.
The most mature of these types of spacecraft is the Space Dragon’s “Dragon” spacecraft. The spacecraft was developed by SpaceX for the NASA commercial rail transportation service project and is available in both freight and manned models. In addition to the escape escape system and life support system necessary for occupant transport, the two types of spacecraft are almost identical in configuration to facilitate a rapid transition between freight and manned capabilities.
The “Dragon” spacecraft mainly consists of a pressurized return capsule of 10 cubic meters (capable of carrying up to 7 astronauts) and a non-pressurized cargo compartment of 14 cubic meters. So far, the cargo model of the “Dragon” spacecraft has been re-used for the second time, and its manned model was also successfully launched in March this year (carrying a dummy model). Therefore, the “Dragon” spacecraft may become the first reusable manned spacecraft to be crowned.
According to information previously disclosed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, China’s reusable manned spacecraft should follow a similar route to the “Dragon” spacecraft.
According to the data, China’s new generation of manned spacecraft will adopt a two-cabin configuration of return and service cabins, with a total length of about 9 meters and a maximum launch weight of about 23 tons. On the basis of fully inheriting the existing technology of China’s manned spaceflight engineering, A series of advanced technologies have been adopted in structure, propulsion, recycling, and reusability to make the spacecraft highly reliable, safe, low-cost and livable. I believe that the Chinese “Dragon” travels in space should also be just around the corner.
Key points: Reusable manned spacecraft means a spacecraft that can be quickly put into the next mission after a mission has been performed with a simple test and maintenance. Compared with those one-time spacecraft that have been thrown away, the reusable spacecraft can not only greatly shorten the preparation time of the mission, increase the frequency of space launches, but also reduce the cost of a single mission. It is called the future space taxi.