Liquid oxygen and kerosene, that's what fuels China's new -- and freshly tested -- rocket engine. When fired up on Sunday, it withstood temperatures as high as 5,432 degrees Fahrenheit (3,000 degrees Celsius) for 200 seconds and powered through almost 20,000 revolutions per minute in a rotational test. "The successful tests confirm the reliability of China's LOX / kerosene engine," test commander Lai Daichu told China Daily. According to China Central Television, the engine is non-toxic, pollution-free and the first of its kind for which China holds proprietary intellectual property rights -- though similar engines have been used by other space agencies. The engine is on track to lend the upcoming Long March 5 rocket a total of 118 tons of thrust, giving it enough oomph to launch a 25-ton payload into low-earth orbit or 14-ton cargo into geostationary orbit. Its expected to haul additional portions of the country's space station and aid lunar exploration, but the first voyage isn't slated until 2014.
[Image Credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation]
State news agency Xinhua is reporting that China is planning to launch a manned spacecraft later this month. A Shenzhou-9 capsule and rocket are already in place, and when it launches it'll manually dock with the nation's space station: Tiangong-1. The nation is moving quickly to capitalize on its successes last year, after learning how to dock two objects in high-speed orbit. Once both are linked up, the three astronauts on-board would move across to perform scientific experiments before returning to Earth in the craft, as you do.