Interview with Blue Arrow CEO Zhang Changwu: 2019 is the watershed for commercial rockets

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 Interview with Blue Arrow CEO Zhang Changwu: 2019 is the watershed for commercial rockets


Recently, when you go to Blue Arrow Huzhou Intelligent Manufacturing Base, you may see a scene like this: while building, installing the process system of the test bed, preparing the engine test bed, and developing the engine itself. Since its establishment in 2015, Blue Arrow has trotted all the way, proving the feasibility of private rocket in Chinas commercial space field.

On the afternoon of World Telecom Day on May 17, while everyone was paying attention to 5G, another news may be omitted: the first 80-ton liquid oxygen methane engine in China, which was successfully tested in 20 seconds by Tianqu. The success of this test officially declares that for the first time, Chinese private enterprises have mastered all the key technologies of 100-ton liquid rocket engine, and have all the support capabilities required for engine development.

The engine is the third high-thrust liquid oxygen methane rocket engine in the world to complete the whole system test after the origin of SpaceX and Blue in the United States. It is also the first private enterprise in China to complete the whole engine test. It can be said that the blue arrow private aerospace enterprise high thrust liquid rocket engine product zero breakthrough.

It is revealed that the rocket Suzaku II carrying the engine will be produced and delivered in the second half of 2020.

Zero Breakthrough of Private High Thrust Liquid Rocket Engine

On May 17, 2019, Blue Arrow issued a statement that the 20-second test run of the Magpie engine independently developed by Blue Arrow was successful.

The magpie mentioned by Blue Arrow is the first 80-ton liquid oxygen methane engine in China. It is the double cryogenic liquid rocket engine with the largest thrust in China at present. According to Blue Arrow, the engine has the characteristics of non-toxic, environmental protection, high reliability, high performance, low cost, easy operation and reusability, which represents the development direction of Aerospace Power technology.

As of May 17, the Magpie engine has been tested four times in a week. The longest test time is 20 seconds. The engine starts and shuts down smoothly and quickly, and the parameters of normal working period are stable. The engine performance meets the design requirements.

This test successfully validates the complete process of design, R&D, manufacture, production, assembly and test of commercial aerospace high thrust engines in China.

Magpie Engine

It means that our country has an additional 100-ton liquid oxygen methane engine, filling a major gap in the field. Blue Arrow Space CEO Zhang Changwu said.

If we have to make a comparison, the Blue Arrow Magpie can be said to be the third large thrust liquid oxygen methane rocket engine in the world to complete the whole system test after the Raptor Engine of SpaceX and the BE-4 Engine of Blue Origin.

And this success also makes Blue Arrow the first-class level of international private rocket enterprises.

Since Chinas commercial space policy broke the ice in 2015, Blue Arrow has been established for nearly five years. Recalling the past five years, Zhang Changwu believes that Blue Arrow has done three things: first, through the exploration of Blue Arrow in this field, he has found a way, and pointed out the direction. The road of Chinas private rocket is open, whether it is development or supporting business chain.

In particular, in 2018, Blue Arrow launched its first private launch vehicle, the Suzaku I. Although the launch failed in the last stage, Blue Arrow is the first company in China to get the license of Chinas private launch vehicle. It is also the earliest private rocket enterprise to obtain full access qualification in the industry. It has opened up the four chains of capability chain, supply chain, system chain and launch chain.

The second thing is that Blue Arrow has formulated the technical route which is basically followed by the industry at present. The solid rocket in front of it throws stones to ask for directions, and then takes the technical route of liquid rocket development.

Third, the Blue Arrow fills the gap in a 100-ton liquid oxygen methane engine. This technological advantage has made a good start for the next five years and paved the way for Blue Arrows next five years. Zhang Changwu concluded.

Delivery of rockets in the second half of 2020

After 20 seconds of continuous test run, there is still a lot of follow-up work for Blue Arrow.

Blue Arrow Tianqu Engine System Designer disclosed that after the first engine test, Tianqu should return to the factory for decomposition and inspection to evaluate the working state of the engine more accurately. Then, the cumulative trouble-free test time of the engine will reach 15,000 seconds by carrying out full-range test, long-range test, limit boundary condition test, rocking test, off-design test and reliability appraisal test, etc. Above all, the reliability index of the engine meets the general requirements of the rocket.

According to the plan, the 15,000 seconds of continuous trouble-free test run is expected to be completed in the first half of 2020. This time mainly depends on two factors: one is the collection and feedback of all data in the engine test process, if all goes well, it will be completed in the first half of 2020; the other depends on the availability of self-test benches and test facilities at any time.

Blue Arrow itself has its own test bed. This test bed was built in Huzhou. It is understood that the Blue Arrow Huzhou Intelligent Manufacturing Base will build the R&D, test and assembly line of liquid engine and launch vehicle, including the core workshop of rocket assembly plant, rocket test plant, engine assembly plant and so on.

After the completion of the base, the total measurement of rocket system assembly and the production and development of core components can be realized. According to public information, the base covers 70 mu in the first phase and 41 mu in the second phase, with a total investment of 1.5 billion yuan.

In fact, many of the performance of our first engine has exceeded the original design target, but the reliability has not been sufficiently verified. The main follow-up is the working time of the engine, to fully meet the requirements of rocket flight. Zucheng mentioned.

The Blue Arrow Suzaku II carrying the Tianqu engine is also advancing synchronously at the same time as the test run of the Tianqu engine. We are aiming at the target that we can leave the factory in the second half of 2020. Zhang Changwu said.

This means that in the second half of 2020, the Blue Arrow will be the first flight of a medium-sized liquid launch vehicle.

Chinas Commercial Rocket Watershed in 2019

Blue Arrow is only one of more than 40 private launch vehicle enterprises in China. However, at present, it is the first tier of manufacturers. Since Chinas commercial space policy broke the ice in 2015, business enterprises engaged in commercial space have emerged in an endless stream, and private launch vehicle enterprises have also emerged in the past one or two years.

However, according to the different engine technology routes, private launch vehicles have enterprises engaged in Solid Launch vehicles, liquid oxygen kerosene, liquid oxygen methane technology routes.

Blue Arrow itself is also aimed at the worlds first-class private aerospace enterprises to compete and target. From SpaceX to Blue Origin. Zhang Changwu said, The engines of their future development technology line are all liquid oxygen methane.

Therefore, Blue Arrow aimed at the technical route of liquid oxygen methane from its inception.

From the technical route and commercial prospects, we believe that we are feasible. At the same time, we hope that through the research and development of liquid oxygen methane technology, we can fill the gap in this field in China and make Chinese private commercial aerospace enterprises reach the world first-class level. Zhang Changwu recalled.

For the development trend of Chinas private rocket enterprises in 2019, Zhang Changwu believes that the field of launch vehicles will not blossom like the Internet, there will be many participants. Because the technical and competitive threshold of launch vehicle is too high, only by putting all efforts on R&D, forming products, and having unique advantages in product technology positioning, can we survive.

The end of 2019 will be the end of the first five years of Chinas commercial rocket 1.0, and there will also be a watershed. Zhang Changwu believes that the second half of 2019 will enter an integration or adjustment period. This means that in 2019, Chinas private rocket industry will enter a elimination competition, and some enterprises will be eliminated. Some enterprises which do not show their advantages or differences in technology may find it difficult to survive. Then the resource aggregation effect of head enterprises may be highlighted immediately. Zhang Changwu believes that some of the latter enterprises will survive more difficult. At the same time, he also explained that the so-called back enterprises do not mean small enterprises, but enterprises with no obvious competitive advantages or homogeneous construction and no rapid establishment of technological advantages. But for some enterprises with unique positioning or technological advantages, they still have vitality. Source: Liable Editor of Netease Science and Technology Report: Qiao Junyi_NBJ11279

The end of 2019 will be the end of the first five years of Chinas commercial rocket 1.0, and there will also be a watershed. Zhang Changwu believes that the second half of 2019 will enter an integration or adjustment period.

This means that in 2019, Chinas private rocket industry will enter a elimination competition, and some enterprises will be eliminated.

Some enterprises which do not show their advantages or differences in technology may find it difficult to survive. Then the resource aggregation effect of head enterprises may be highlighted immediately. Zhang Changwu believes that some of the latter enterprises will survive more difficult.

At the same time, he also explained that the so-called back enterprises do not mean small enterprises, but enterprises with no obvious competitive advantages or homogeneous construction and no rapid establishment of technological advantages. But for some enterprises with unique positioning or technological advantages, they still have vitality.