Chinese engineers have long been known for often copying popular technology made in the United States. When a new iPhone model comes out, Chinese manufacturers immediately present cheap analogues with a similar design. Progress does not stand still, and for several years now they have been successfully creating copies of more complex equipment. Thus, in the first half of 2021, a Chinese robot-dog AlphaDog was presented, which is a clone of a similar robot Spot from Boston Dynamics. The only difference is that the Chinese analog costs 30 times less and has a more limited set of functions. This year, engineers from China went even further and told about the development of a spaceship that is very similar to Starship from Ilon Musk. It too costs many times less, but what about its capabilities?
The fact that engineers from the Chinese Academy of Space Technology are building a copy of the SpaceX spacecraft was already known last year. But then only a video was shown, which gave almost no important information. This time around there are a lot more details about the Chinese copy of Starship, and Wang Xiaojun, head of the academy himself, shared them. The concept of a spacecraft similar to the American Starship was shown at the International Symposium on Cooperation in Earth Orbit Manned Spaceflight.
To all appearances, a copy exists only "on paper" at the moment. The slide from the presentation shows that the upper stage of the Chinese rocket is as similar to Starship as possible - it has a futuristic design with two pairs of aerodynamic rudders: the lower ones are large and the upper ones are slightly smaller. The flight diagram shows that the spacecraft will assume a horizontal position during landing. In this way, the rocket can brake without consuming much fuel. The same braking method is planned for the Starship spacecraft.
The lower stage of the Chinese spacecraft differs from the similar part of the Starship (the Super Heavy rocket in its role) much more. Some sources say that its design is more reminiscent of the first stage of the New Glenn rocket, which is still being developed by Blue Origin. SpaceX uses lattice rudders to stabilize the stage during automatic return and landing on its own. Engineers from China decided to do without the traditional "wings," which are located at the top and bottom of the structure. Lattice rudders are considered more efficient, but wings cost less and, in general, also do a good job.