China is developing a system to recover parts of rockets used in space launches to bring down costs and make its space program more commercially competitive, according to researchers involved in the project.
The system would bring the rocket engine and booster safely back to the ground so they can be reused in future launches. Besides saving operational costs, the recovery would also reduce the threat of debris falling to the ground, the researchers said.
The recovery system is under development at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing.
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It involves using a set of multiple parachutes, which are stored in the first stage of the rocket, which is released from the rest of the craft before it burns its way through the Earth's atmosphere.
An air bag inflates under the discarded part of the rocket, which cushions impact when it finally hits the ground.