CAS-Space, a Chinese space company owned by the country’s government, introduced its new family of rockets last Monday. The spacecraft are very similar to those of Western companies SpaceX and Blue Origin.
Why is this important?A new space race has emerged in recent years. Unlike the first edition, which opposed the United States and the Soviet Union, this time the players are much more numerous. And they aren’t always original when it comes to ship design.
News : CAS-Space on Monday opened its first commercial space base in the Chinese city of Guangzhou. During this inauguration, the company introduced the “Lijian” family of rockets.
- The company plans to produce a number of rockets at the site. In the tweet below, you can see scale models of the Lijian family.
- What one notices immediately is that the rockets do not look completely unfamiliar. The two designs on the left, the ZK-1A (a rocket first launched in 2022) and the PR-1A, look a lot like the European Vega rocket family.
- If the similarities to existing rockets ended there, one would think it was a coincidence. But the two middle rockets, the PR-3 and PR-3H, look quite similar to Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 and SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, respectively.
- As for the rightmost rocket, it looks like the New Shepard from Blue Origin, the company of ex-Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. His space capsule looks like a combination between SpaceX’s capsules, the Crew Dragon, and the spacecraft on the New Shepard, the Crew Capsule.
To note : Elon Musk doesn’t care that CAS-Space’s rockets are so similar to SpaceX’s.
- As recently as September, the centibillionaire said patents were “for the weak” and that SpaceX didn’t use them. Indeed, the use of patents would prevent other companies from innovating. His car company Tesla also released its patents in 2014.
- If companies publish their patents, Musk said in an interview with Wired in 2012 that “the Chinese would simply use them as a cookbook”. Now it looks like that prediction wasn’t so crazy.