CHINA appears to be developing a knockoff version of SpaceX's next-generation rocket as it moves to enter a new space race with the US.
Promotional video shown over the weekend by China's biggest state-owned rocket-maker showcased a new spacecraft that looks strikingly similar to Starship, which SpaceX is developing in Texas.
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It sits atop a similarly shaped rocket, and sports the same triangular aerodynamic fins and stainless steel cladding as its American counterpart.
The animation was on display in the eastern city of Nanjing as part of celebrations of the nation's sixth National Space Day.
Videos of the showcase were posted to Chinese social media website Weibo and later published by Ars Technica.
The animation details the launch process of a space vehicle capable of rapid, suborbital trips between two points on Earth – just like Starship.
The company behind the project is China's main state-owned rocket manufacturer, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.
CALT's concept bears a striking resemblance to SpaceX's craft in animations produced by the California rocket-maker in years past.
Like Starship, China's craft is a large vehicle capable of vertical takeoff and vertical landing, potentially allowing it to ferry humans to other planets.
The video shows passengers enjoying weightlessness as they whizz around Earth before touching down at their destination.
As the rocket touches down on a pad in front of a skyline, the clip almost exactly mirrors a 2017 animation released by SpaceX.
That video shows Starship and its companion Super Heavy booster performing an "Earth to Earth" vertical takeoff and landing.
According to previous reports, China is hoping to develop its point-to-point spaceship by 2045.
SpaceX has already launched Starship on a number of unmanned test flights, though the previous four have ended in dramatic explosions.
The company hopes to fly astronauts to the Moon in the spacecraft as early as 2024, while point-to-point travel will more likely arrive in the 2030s.
What is SpaceX?
Here’s what you need to know…
SpaceX was founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk who still has part ownership of the company with 54 per cent equity and 78 per cent voting control.
SpaceX is a private American aerospace manufacturer that is based in California.
It was founded in 2002 with the goal to build affordable rockets and enable the colonisation of Mars.
The manufacturer also aimed to reduce space transportation costs.
Since its creation, the firm has gained fame primarily as a pioneering rocket firm.
In 2008 it launched the first privately-funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit and later became the first private company to launch an object into orbit around the sun.
The company has grown dramatically over its lifespan, from 160 employees in November 2005 to around 7,000 as of November 2019.
As of March 2018, SpaceX had over 100 launches on its manifest representing about $12billion (£9.24billion) in contract revenue.
Once operational, the vehicle could fly tourists from London to New York in under half an hour.
Analysts reckon the space tourism industry, worth around £300billion today, will be worth over £600billion by 2030.
Of this, point-to-point rocket flights would make up a £15billion industry that threatens to cannibalise long haul plane flights.
As well as SpaceX, rocket companies Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are attempting to take tourists to space.
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What do you make of China's Starship? Let us know in the comments!
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