Tencent science and technology news on March 4, Beijing time, the prototype Sn10 of SpaceX heavy launch vehicle interstellar spaceship made its first high altitude test flight. It reached an altitude of about 9.6 km four minutes after taking off. The whole test flight lasted about 6 minutes and 30 seconds. The fly in the ointment was that the spaceship exploded about 10 minutes after successfully landing. Although the test was not perfect, the Sn10 prototype successfully carried out all kinds of flight operations during the test flight, and managed to complete a reasonable soft landing, which played a significant role in human rocket recovery and fire landing plans.
In addition to the flight test of Sn10, SpaceX carried out the prototype flight of SN8 and sn9 in December 2020 and February not long ago respectively. The previous two rockets completed their own development goals, including testing aerodynamics, steering and directional landing, etc., but the two prototypes failed to slow down enough when trying to land, resulting in impact and explosion. SpaceX announced on 19 June that it will complete the first commercial space travel of mankind by the end of this year, with a cost of more than 100 million US dollars, and realize the plan of landing on Mars by 2026. However, judging from the current situation, SpaceX does not have much time left, and opening up a new planet is still a big problem for human science and technology.
On the evening of March 4, the seventh issue of “star dialogue” launched by Tencent News’s “sky program” invited Li Chao, Tencent News knowledge officer, chief consultant of China Aerospace culture and innovation, and chief analyst of airy consulting, to have a dialogue with Zhuo Jia, deputy chief engineer of Xinghe power Aerospace guidance and control, and Zhao Yang, science writer and doctor of science history, to popularize science and talk about the black technology behind SpaceX’s trip, as well as Sn10 The significance of launch.
Zhuojia said that the success of the Sn10 prototype mainly depends on its launch purpose, such as whether it is verifying some technology or other factors. Zhuo Jia said: “from SN8 to sn9, Sn10, most of the technologies have been verified, most of the states are successful. Although every soft landing will have a little problem, including Sn10 explosion after landing. In this respect, its technical state is not completely reliable, and there are many problems to be solved. In short, in terms of soft landing itself, it was a success. ” Dr. Zhao Yang said that the trial and error, fault tolerance spirit and rich imagination contained in Sn10 are also worth learning from.
The following is a transcript of the dialogue:
Li Chao (host): Hello everyone, welcome to the live broadcast room of star dialogue column launched by Tencent News sky plan. I’m Li Chao, the dialogue host of this program. Thank you for watching our program on time.
Today, we will talk with you about the SpaceX launched spaceship Sn10. According to reports, on March 3, Beijing time, the space X prototype Sn10 successfully conducted a high altitude flight test in boccachica, Texas. This is the third time that the space X prototype has challenged the altitude of 10km class, and finally successfully achieved a soft landing for the first time. Unfortunately, an explosion occurred a few minutes after landing. But since it can successfully fall down, it means that this matter has been explored almost, and has a certain milestone significance in the exploration of space.
What are the breakthroughs and upgrades of Sn10? How far is it from a successful landing on Mars? We invited two guests to discuss with us today. Today’s two guests are Dr. Zhao Yang, a popular science writer and doctor of science history, and Zhuo Jia, deputy chief engineer of guidance and control of Xinghe power aerospace. Science and engineering combine and promote each other. The combination of the two is a combination of mutual promotion. We would like to invite you to have a specific talk with the audience about Sn10.
Zhuojia (dialogue guest): Hello, I’m Zhuojia from Galaxy Power aerospace.
Zhao Yang (dialogue guest): Hello, Tencent netizens, I’m Zhao Yang.
Li Chao: let’s turn to today’s main topic. First of all, I would like to ask Mr. Zhuo the first question. The explosion of the Starship prototype took place a few minutes after it landed. It is also a very strange thing for laymen. Why are there repeated launch failures? Is it a successful test or a failed test?
Zhuo Jia: success or failure depends on the purpose of the launch. What he wants to verify is technology or other aspects. From my point of view, most of the technologies from SN8 to sn9 and Sn10 have been verified. In fact, most of them are successful. Although there are some small problems in every soft landing, including the explosion after landing of Sn10, it is still a problem. In this respect, its technical status is not completely reliable, and there are still many problems to be solved. In general, in fact, soft landing is successful in terms of itself, but more work may be needed to verify the maturity or integrity of the aircraft.
Li Chao: in other words, is this a “semi successful” state?
Zhuo Jia: Yes, in fact, it mainly depends on the objectives to be verified in flight test. If you want to verify whether the maturity of the aircraft meets the requirements, so that other tests can be carried out later, it may still be a little lacking. Some improvements need to be made in engine and supercharging system.
Li Chao: did the two teachers watch the live broadcast of recent starship launches? Compared with SN8 and sn9, is there any problem with their failure?
Zhao Yang: I didn’t watch the live broadcast. Later, I watched the video playback. The prototype machine had fallen down. Everyone was relieved and even congratulated. As a result, it exploded again. Some netizens also noted that expert analysis may be fuel leakage, which may be more common.
The space shuttle Challenger crash in 1986 was caused by the failure of the moving sealing ring and the fuel leakage and ignition caused by the low temperature, which led to the explosion of the space shuttle. This kind of thing is not new in space engineering. I also agree with Mr. Zhuo Jia’s point of view. Although it was defeated, it was still a successful experiment. It got the necessary data, which is a great progress compared with the previous two launch experiments.
Zhuo Jia: I watched the live video this morning. During the recovery process, all the three engines ignited normally, and then two engines were shut down one after another. Then I saw the flames on the side of the engine, so there should be fuel leakage during the flight. From this point of view, its whole system still has problems, just like a gymnast, although he has completed all the movements, there are some defects in the middle. In the early days of SN5 and sn9, aviation enthusiasts also found that there were some small problems with the engine through video recording, such as the emergence of sparks or the falling of parts. This problem seems to exist all the time. This is also the place where I just said that we should continue to improve the hardware.
Li Chao: from SN8 to Sn10, does this series of technological iteration and technological improvement have any help and reference significance for our country?
Zhuo Jia: the working mode of space X has a great impact on us. This experiment is based on fast iteration regardless of cost. We can only learn from some relevant ideas as far as possible, but it may take a long time to reach the speed of his iteration. There are two main reasons, one is limited resources, and the other is that the overall domestic environment may not be so tolerant of launch failure.
Li Chao: previously, it was reported on the Internet that there was a small detail. Before the Sn10 flight test, it quickly replaced a raptor engine. What’s the intention of this machine? What conditions are required for rocket launching at home and abroad?
Zhuo Jia: the replacement of the engine may be due to some abnormalities found in the process of ground test. If there is any abnormality, the replacement is very normal. It has nothing to do with other purposes of flight test.
When it comes to pre flight preparation, space The special point of X is that after the whole machine is assembled, static ignition test will be done on the ground after the test, and the whole rocket will be fixed on the launch to ignite the primary engine. This process is not very common in rockets of other companies or other countries, including the United States itself. This is a comparison with other rockets in launch preparation It’s a different place. The other routine is to do all kinds of tests, including stand-alone test, subsystem test and overall inspection of the whole rocket. This is a problem of rocket testing.
On the other hand, it’s weather forecast, which must be done. It depends on whether the weather conditions can be met. When we were chatting before, Mr. Zhao said that the application for landing areas in air traffic areas, more broadly speaking, must complete an examination and approval process with the management department. In China, there must be an examination and approval process with the military. Before sn9, the FAA will conduct an audit on the US side.
Li Chao: some space X fans have revealed that Sn10 has installed a new “flap”. It is speculated that the new parts on the spacecraft will help it avoid failure or damage during operation, flight and landing. Can this new technology increase the recovery capability? What is the core technology of rocket? We know that recyclable technology is very popular all over the world, and since the successful recovery of 009 with space X, commercial aerospace companies and even national teams all over the world want to practice recyclable technology. What are your views on this? Under what circumstances can our national recyclable technology do well? There are several ways to realize recyclable technology. What are their difficulties?
Zhao Yang: my professional background is aerospace history. I have read some historical documents. We still need to put Sn series rockets in the whole rocket history, especially in the historical pedigree of recoverable rocket technology. There are about five technical paths. Let me introduce them to you
The first is parachute landing. Parachute is the roughest and most unsafe way to lower the rocket. The speed of parachute landing is about 10 meters per second, which is quite fast and easy to break the rocket;
Second, the parachute drops to add the air bag, and the cushion air bag inflates immediately before landing to offset the large impulse;
Third, horizontal recovery with wings seems to be very complicated. It also has wings and horizontal recovery. But let me give you an example. The US space shuttle is actually a kind of rocket. It only returns without a fuel tank. The large liquid engine is still there. The United States and the Soviet Union were doing it during the cold war, including the Soviet Union’s energy rocket, but it failed Already. Sn series at present it is wing, but not horizontal recycling, is vertical recycling. Its middle is the use of pneumatic operation surface to operate, can be said to be a combination.
Fourth, the landing buffer mechanism refers to the landing frame installed, which is not the invention of space X. as we all know, during the cold war, the U.S. delta sail single-stage orbit entry was not necessarily multi-stage orbit entry, as cherkovsky said. It used several supports to reduce the buffer. But its weakness is that there is no aerodynamic control, it will consume a lot of rocket fuel, and the load of the satellite will be lost.
The last one is relatively rare. It is similar to the helicopter rotor. A bamboo dragonfly is installed on the head of the rocket. When it comes down, it rotates in reverse and its speed drops. It can be imagined that the technology is very difficult and the reliability is not high, so now the main methods are wing horizontal recovery and landing buffer mechanism. Sn series rockets are the combination of these two methods.
I also checked. In 2015, the Rocket Technology Research Institute of the first National Academy of aerospace conducted a rocket parachute award airdrop experiment, which is also equivalent to a parachute recovery experiment with a buffer mechanism. This is the earliest public report of a recoverable rocket made by a state-owned space agency that our country can check.
Zhuo Jia: let me talk about some situations in our country before, such as this kind of recoverable rocket. Mr. Zhao said it all. We also discussed the status of horizontal recycling of space shuttle in the 1980s, and we did it in the 1980s. In fact, there has been a demonstration of this recycling technology in the system, but it may not reach the public state. In 2015, it was in the public state of parachuting, and finally landing with air bags. In the past two years, I also saw that the first Chinese Academy of Astronautics was already doing the technology experiment of the vertical recovery of the first stage of the rocket, and the 12 Aerospace institutes had made a small prototype to verify the recovery algorithm, which was also doing this. As we all know, there should be recyclable models behind the Long March 8, which is also the goal to be achieved in the next few years.
On the other hand, now commercial aerospace will strive to recycle rockets, and everyone’s current plans are going there. Our company is also making some progress in this aspect, including the rocket’s variable thrust and return guidance control.
Li Chao: when it comes to recyclability, its biggest significance is to save costs to the greatest extent. The whole power system of a rocket accounts for 60% – 80% of the total cost of the rocket. If it can’t get down after going up, how can the cost of the rocket be reduced? Can cost be reduced after recyclability? From an engineering point of view, what are the technical points of this recyclable technology to help us recycle it? Is there any technology that people can’t see?
Zhuo Jia: my understanding is that the recoverable engine needs variable thrust. The usual disposable launch vehicle does not need this technology, but it must have this technology when recovering. Because it is difficult to achieve soft landing with a single thrust, so variable thrust is needed. For high thrust rocket engine, it is difficult to realize variable thrust technology. In the past, there were not many practical engineering applications. The earlier one was the main engine of the US space shuttle, so this technology is also a big challenge.
On the other hand, a recovery guidance and control algorithm in the return process, because the purpose of recovery is to reduce the cost, we hope to use as few thrusters as possible to recover, and use as much energy as possible to the carrier load in the ascending phase. This algorithm proposes that you must use the least energy, so this algorithm is also more difficult than conventional rockets Taking a step forward is also a new key technology.
Li Chao: some experts say that in fact, there is a technology that we seldom pay attention to in terms of recyclable technology, that is, the so-called engine backstepping technology. I don’t know if you two know about it, because it’s different from the conventional cognition. We think that the engine injects gas downward, so is the backstepping turning or other technology?
Zhuo Jia: I understand that means that the jet direction of the rocket engine is consistent with the forward direction. We call it “reverse jet of the engine”. In general, the jet direction of our rocket is opposite to our forward direction, which is a normal state. When we recycle, we point the nozzle to the front, and when we jet, we spray forward. This is also a key technology. The flow chart is very complex, and its calculation and experiment are not so simple.
Zhao Yang: it can be understood that when the rocket is descending, the engine actually reverses. Unlike the vectoring nozzle on the aircraft, which can swing, it may not have that function.
Zhuojia: Yes, it didn’t make a very big move. It still depends on the engine installed at the bottom.
Li Chao: do you know the difference between Falcon 9 and Long March rockets? The reason why Falcon 9 can realize recyclable technology is that it is simple and crude in many aspects of structural design and rocket body design. In theory, basically, the same engine is more recyclable. This is a rule that can be summarized from the finished Falcon 9. Can it be summarized like this?
Maybe not. I personally feel that we all use the same engine to distinguish between low altitude and high altitude, which is considered from the perspective of cost saving. It may be more comfortable to customize an engine for recycling. With one engine, the batch production is larger, and the cost advantage is more obvious.
Li Chao: the combined engine can also be realized.
Zhuo Jia: others are OK, but not necessarily the best.
Zhao Yang: I offer an idea. I work in the China Science and Technology Museum. There is an exhibition hall called “space exploration exhibition hall” in the museum, which displays many real objects, including the authentic products of the Long March 5 liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen engine. We found that there are many pipes on the nozzle of the rocket. If you have been to foreign museums and seen the V2 rocket developed in Germany, it is a similar design. What is the purpose of this design? Let the fuel flow through the nozzle, the nozzle temperature is too high, as high as several thousand degrees, so that the nozzle does not melt, the mechanical performance does not decline, let the cold fuel flow past, it preheat, higher efficiency.
From the 1940s to the present, more than 60 years have passed. Liquid rocket engines of mainstream space agencies all over the world, including the United States, Russia, use this structure. I checked on the Internet, but the engine used by Falcon 9 and Sn rockets is not this. It doesn’t use this kind of preheating fuel engine, and it doesn’t preheat any more. This is very strange. It’s also mentioned by the host just now. What can we learn from the development of our aerospace industry? In my opinion, trial and error, fault tolerance and imagination can break through the technology path that the predecessors thought was self-evident. They really have courage. We can see that they have succeeded, and all walks of life can draw some shining points from it.
Li Chao: we can see that this time the space X starship has an altitude of more than 50 meters. The official figure is that it is expected to carry more than 600-100 passengers. It can take off on the moon and Mars, but to leave the earth, it must rely on a 70 meter high giant carrier rocket called “super heavy rocket”. To lift it up, it is equivalent to a two-stage state. I personally understand the feeling of Dongfeng 17. What kind of technology is used to achieve such a high thrust?
Zhuo Jia: starship stage 2 and stage 1 are a complete rocket, with a take-off weight of more than 3000 tons. This state is close to that of “Saturn 5” when the United States landed on the moon in the 1960s. Its whole take-off weight and low earth orbit carrying capacity can be said to be of one level, which may be the largest, but the level is similar to that of the original, not much higher, But it still has some characteristics. Although “Saturn 5” has such a large scale, its first stage has only five F1 engines. The thrust of each engine is extremely huge, and the thrust is close to 700 tons. The five engines are enough to push a 3000 ton rocket. Its whole rocket does not use such a large engine. At present, the thrust of Raptor’s engine is about 200 tons. It is equipped with a lot of relatively small engines. I remember it seems to be more than 30. This may be a big breakthrough.
At that time, when the Soviet Union was also engaged in the lunar rocket, the rocket was called N1. The first stage was equipped with 30 engines, and four successive launches failed. There are many challenges in the propulsion system. The pipelines are very dense and complex, which brings many problems. Space X is going to take this road now. It’s really very difficult to meet the difficulties. Falcon heavy has verified that it can fly successfully even if it ignites 27 engines at the same time. It should be that it has made a breakthrough in this aspect and the rocket can be successfully manufactured.
Li Chao: the more parallel engines, the greater the thrust. This is a conclusion that can be made mathematically. The more parallel engines, the more risks to the stability. How to weigh this issue in engineering, is it more or less parallel opportunities? What kind of arrangement structure can be used to prevent the occurrence of such a malignant event? If one fails, others can make up for this power. Will there be engineering design in this area?
Zhuo Jia: now space X has this kind of design. It has a set of internal management system, which can diagnose which engine has problems in real time. In order to avoid losing balance, the opposite engine is also turned off. Because there are many engines, the thrust is redundant. If there are two or several less engines, they can fly equally. The control system will be reconstructed according to the current fault situation in the sky. Even if the engine breaks down, you can fly with the rest. This is a unique technology of space X, which is more challenging. For a long time, generally speaking, it is very difficult from the engineering point of view when there are too many parallels. In the past, we seldom tried this aspect, which is also worth learning.
Li Chao: it is said that starships can take off on the moon and Mars. Theoretically, can they extract their own fuel from the moon? Is it because there is methane on both the moon and Mars that we can exploit our own fuel on Mars?
Zhuo Jia: I didn’t understand its plan very carefully in the early stage. It should be to produce methane on Mars, but the moon doesn’t have this condition. It needs to bring its own fuel on the moon. This is my personal conjecture.
Zhao Yang: I also agree with Mr. Zhuo Jia that there is a chemical reaction called “sabajie” on Mars. That is to say, methane is prepared by chemical reaction with carbon dioxide enriched on Mars. However, a lot of electricity is consumed and converted into chemical energy. There is no carbon dioxide on the moon. At present, all countries are looking for water to explore the moon, perhaps by electrolyzing water to generate hydrogen and oxygen, but it will be more difficult to take it from the earth, because the earth’s dynamic field is too large, and the cost of taking these things out is too high, so it needs to be prepared in situ on Mars.
Li Chao: let’s imagine when we will be able to go to Mars in the future. From the historical stage of human fire exploration, what kind of stage are we in now? What kind of layout do countries in the world have in this regard?
Zhao Yang: let’s take an inappropriate analogy. If we compare navigation, we are still in the stage of canoeing. Canoes can only carry a few people, but we should not underestimate canoes. Thousands of years ago, the residents of the South Island crossed the Pacific Ocean by canoe and spread all over the island. Later, the big ship can carry more people and more goods, which is incomparable, and it is often a single ride, there is no return.
From the Mars exploration in recent decades, we can see that most of the Mars exploration is based on the way of “circling and landing”. This is the case with China’s Tianwen. First, we need to turn it into a man-made Mars satellite and fly around Mars by means of remote sensing. Landing refers to the landing of the Mars Lander. The Viking of the late 1970s, which has no wheels, no legs and can’t walk, is just in place It’s not easy to land in a soft way. Patrol is to drive down a Mars rover, whether it’s a vehicle, a robot or an unmanned aircraft. Life support system is needed for manned spaceflight. The weight will increase a lot, and the reliability will also increase very high. Several Aerospace powers are studying projects related to manned spaceflight. As far as civil space forces are concerned, musk is more reliable. He is the one who is really doing this. We all have to wait and see. After all, Mars is the Mars of all mankind. We also hope that a representative of mankind can lead us to Mars first.
Li Chao: musk said that human beings will be sent to Mars in 2026. Now there are four or five years to go before 2026. According to the progress we have seen, is it possible to achieve this goal?
Zhuo Jia: the possibility is very small within five years. This technology is still very difficult. According to the capabilities of space X, there may be hope before 2030.
Li Chao: there will be a very important thing mentioned here. It is also a very important question in the whole history of space development. Which is the value of sending people to land on another planet or sending robots and probes to another planet? How do you think we should send people up, or just a few detectors?
Zhao Yang: it’s all worth it. The way of value is different. Sending an unmanned probe to the surface of other stars, whether it’s a satellite, a planet or an asteroid, will definitely cost less and cost-effective, but it’s less flexible. The farther the signal is, the greater the time delay is. It requires the machine to have a certain degree of autonomy on it. When encountering some emergencies or emergencies, whether these detectors can make the corresponding response, now it seems that it is certainly not as flexible as human beings. Sooner or later, mankind will become a multi planetary species. This is Musk’s obsession and a vision. In fact, most of us agree with it. Since humans came out of Africa for more than 70000 years, they have become a multi continent species, unlike some species that only exist on one continent, such as marsupials that only exist in Australia.
Since mankind has this grand vision, it is only a matter of early or late realization. The moderator just said whether space X will be able to carry people to the fire in 2026. We certainly hold a happy attitude. When I hear this news again, I won’t laugh it off as I did two years ago. In the 1950s, the team of German made V2 did a lot of lobbying work in the United States in order to get funding from Congress, and even cooperated with Disney to make popular science films. At that time, the technical plan for manned landing on Mars was very thoughtful. The 70 person fleet, the separation of people and goods, how to return, and how much was the budget It can be achieved in the 1960s.
According to the technological development in the 1950s, it can be achieved, let alone today in the 2020’s, but why not? Let’s go back to the topic of the host, which is more valuable? In terms of economic returns, why are there so many commercial aerospace companies in the world that few people are engaged in manned spaceflight, and most of them are engaged in satellite and carrier operations. Because there will be no commercial return in a short period of time, unless it’s space tourism, let alone a place as far away as Mars and with such high risks. Why have great powers spared no effort to launch people into space since the cold war, especially in 1961?
In fact, this is also because only when people are sent up can they have publicity value and more significance, and can they declare the motive force of human space activities. Otherwise, it is only an extension of human knowledge. It’s just that technical tools have gone up, and this kind of tool is not flexible enough. Since people want to become a polymorphous species, and they have such flexibility, as long as the conditions are met, the money is in place, and there are hundreds of billions of dollars of funds, in fact, this problem is absolutely not a problem in engineering.
The reason why Musk’s idea is clear is that he has “one-way ticket” here and will build a second home there. I personally think the United States has this tradition. In fact, we believe that it is not difficult to find 1 million people with the spirit of risk-taking and self sacrifice among more than 7 billion people in the world, but how to solve the technical problems? In addition, the loss rate will be very high. At this time, as an enterprise, can it bear the overwhelming criticism of these media?
We remember the famous picture of the German airship Hindenburg landing and exploding in New Jersey. Since the 1930s, there has been no large manned airship. If helium is used, it will be very safe. But why are there so few large manned airships now? Because people are scared. It’s a double-edged sword. If it works, it’s good. But if these 1 million people, even thousands of people, encounter major changes, the psychological impact on these people who are still on earth is unimaginable. Therefore, we hope that this matter can be realized as soon as possible, and we also hope that it can be realized more safely. Only in this way can we achieve a sustainable space development.
Li Chao: from the perspective of Mr. Zhuo Jia, is the biggest difference between manned space flight and unmanned space flight the safety factor? Are there any other difficulties and differences?
Zhuo Jia: Yes, there is no big difference in terms of the rocket itself. The main improvement is considered from the aspect of reliability. For example, Musk’s Falcon 9 was originally conceived as a cargo rocket. Over the years, the actual successful launch has proved that it is a very reliable rocket. After that, NASA can accept it as a manned rocket. As long as there are some basic conditions that can be met. In addition, there are some other small constraints. For example, the overload that humans bear on rockets is relatively limited. If manned, the environment should not be too bad, which requires some special considerations. The difference in other aspects is not very big.
Li Chao: speaking of Falcon 9, if we go back more than 10 or 20 years ago, space X was not yet on the rise at that time. If we make a comparison at that stage, what kind of opportunities can China Aerospace seize?
Zhuo Jia: maybe it’s still very difficult. Now, from the perspective of China’s aerospace or commercial aerospace, China’s aerospace is a big concept. The concept of commercial rocket is now subject to a US bill. Satellites with us parts can not be used by China. Now, the market of commercial aerospace is relatively small. Even 20 years ago, it may be constrained by this market, and the development will not be particularly fast. The reason why commercial aerospace can develop in recent years is that China’s national strength is enhanced, domestic demand is improving, there are many satellite networking plans, and there are many private satellite companies. The booming demand from customers makes us feel that commercial aerospace is a valuable thing This kind of environment promotes its development. If it’s too early, it may not be able to support today’s situation. Maybe it’s too early or too late. It needs a suitable time.
Li Chao: we often hear this kind of voice. How many years is the gap between China and the world? If we go back ten or twenty years, what are our advantages at that time?
Zhao Yang: advantage means comparative advantage. The premise is that history cannot be assumed. The following is for reference only. The comparative advantage is that we have the advantage of the whole country system and the advantage of socialism to concentrate on doing great things. A lot of labor costs are relatively low, which is not only reflected in our textile industry, but also in all aspects of the aerospace industry. People, land, equipment and so on, these costs are relatively low.
At the end of the 1990s, we had a place in the commercial launch market. The improved Long March 2, the improved Long March 3, and the improved Long March 4 were all launched abroad. However, as soon as space X came out, especially the recoverable cost was reduced, foreign commercial space observers exclaimed that it was lower than the long march rocket, which was a catfish effect. Its cost reduction is not a labor-intensive and resource intensive cost reduction, but a technology led cost reduction. Not only China and Russia, the traditional space powers, but also the United States and ESA did not expect such a catfish. Just now, Mr. Zhuo Jia also said that everyone is studying the recyclable technology of rockets, and they are doing technology reserves. But why can’t they use it on a large scale? This is because aerospace is a high cost thing, and the risk should be controlled. When we act as a country, we should be more careful.
I have read a paper written by Mr. Qian Xuesen. In the 1960s, he mentioned recoverable rockets. In the 1960s, China did not launch artificial satellites, but in the 1970s. But he had already begun to pay attention to this matter at that time, and thought that this was the only way in the future.
Just now, Mr. Zhuo Jia mentioned that in the 1980s, when the state demonstrated whether manned space flight should follow the technological route of space shuttle or manned spacecraft, Mr. Qian Xuesen also made the final decision. Although Mr. Qian had studied the space shuttles when he was in the United States in the late 1940s, why he didn’t have them at that time was also a matter of reliability. He believes that from the early 1980s to the mid-1980s, after several years of operation, the US space shuttle had the disadvantages of low reliability and extremely inflated cost. The spacecraft represented by the Soviet Union Soyuz, though one-time, has very high reliability and a large number of launches. With China’s technological level and national strength at that time, we should choose the spacecraft path first. There are many factors influencing the choice of technological path, especially as a big country, when developing the aerospace industry, it can’t make a good turn like an enterprise. Therefore, the choice of technological path should be cautious, and these historical developments are reasonable.
Li Chao: from the beginning to the end of the day, both of you mentioned that space X’s ability to break the rules and innovate is worth learning. I believe it has something to do with the character and temperament of the top leaders of an enterprise. There are different musks in different people’s eyes. How do you think of musk? What kind of enterprise leader is he in your eyes? Is his enterprise leadership temperament common or relatively rare in China’s commercial aerospace industry?
Zhuo Jia: there are similar talents in China who are willing to think and do. There are a lot of domestic commercial aerospace companies, and there are many leaders in this style. But there are also many styles in China, some of which are relatively stable, some of which will be more radical, and there are all kinds of styles. After all, the technological base in the United States is much stronger than that in China. He has all kinds of resources, including financial resources, to support such a cause. It’s not to say that if you have this talent, you will be able to do it. It’s still to consider the environment. Different talents choose different routes, how much food they have, and take different routes.
Li Chao: in the process of Zhao Bo’s attention to history, in the long history, what kind of positioning is musk?
Zhao Yang: from my point of view, at the level of technology and entrepreneur, it is estimated that Edison, the competitor of Tesla, is not only an inventor but also a very successful entrepreneur.
As for the personal characteristics of musk, we have paid attention to him many years ago. At that time, he just transformed from the Internet industry to the real manufacturing industry. We can see that the founders of other real manufacturing industries turned very little from the fast money industry like the Internet, which shows that he is a maverick. When we look at his childhood experience, we often say that a person “looks at the old at the age of 7”. Musk has many personal characteristics. For example, he grew up in a multicultural environment. His biggest hobby is reading encyclopedias. He looks at each entry in alphabetical order. There is no logical connection between each entry.
Another technology entrepreneur who loves to read encyclopedias is Bill Gates, but musk explains his behaviors and ideas. One of them can also be used for us to think about when we study innovation culture. For example, Aristotle’s philosophy and reductionism attribute everything to physical thinking. Whether he observes the industry of electric vehicles or launch vehicles, he feels that physically speaking, the cost has not been minimized. As long as it is physically feasible, we can find technical solutions. Moreover, his set of operation mode and technical ideas are the ideas of rapid iteration of Internet enterprises. We have talked a lot about them, but I will not talk about them.
Does China have such a rare talent? Does Russia have any? Do you have it in France? There are also. But the cultivation of talents, we also need to always pay attention to the soil of innovation, the appropriate environment. Over the past 100 years, there have been countless enterprises and people in the electric power industry and electrical industry, which are better than Edison at that time. Similarly, entrepreneurs who are better than musk in these industries will emerge in the future. We should give him better soil and have a mechanism to identify these potential innovators.
Li Chao: let’s take the next question as the final conclusion. With the rapid development of space X, do you think it benefits from the laws of the market or from the support of the system and technology? If he benefits from a certain category, is it suitable in China? Whether it is the commercial space or the space of the national team, which specialty do we need to give full play to if we want to go further? If China’s space industry wants to go further, what advantages can we continue to carry forward?
Zhuo Jia: in fact, the domestic space industry started from a very poor base. To continue to develop this area, we must persist in innovation. Now stimulated by domestic and foreign stimulation, they may pick up the spirit of breaking through the convention again, no longer taking safety or ensuring success as the only priority, but trying to explore more unknown directions. Although it is to learn from musk, in fact, it is also the spirit that China’s aerospace has always had at that time, and it needs to be carried forward in the future.
Li Chao: Mr. Zhao mentioned that there is an environment and a way to select talents. What’s the way and environment in your perspective?
Zhao Yang: whether they are state-owned or private enterprises, the CEOs of enterprises should have a very open attitude and tolerance, and give them a lot of resources to try and make mistakes.
But we should also pay attention to the issue of funds, because many of the expenses, even most of them, are still spent on our taxpayers’ money. Whether it is China aerospace, Russian space agency or NASA, it is more difficult, because we must be cautious in spending taxpayers’ money, and we must take into account the influence of public opinion.
Therefore, I am more optimistic about the commercial aerospace represented by general manager Zhuo. As the saying goes, “a small ship makes a good turn”. The market is also natural. It has a fault tolerance mechanism and the fittest survive. Whether it’s the market system or anything, including space X, many of his technologies are also from the technology transfer between the United States and Russia, including many orders to support him, and also from NASA and even the U.S. air force. Therefore, no one can be biased and find the most suitable way in their own environment.
Li Chao: Yes, we look forward to the future development of China’s aerospace industry! Today, I would like to thank you two guests and the audience. I hope you will continue to pay attention to the star dialogue column launched by Tencent News sky program. Thank you.