China is expected to complete development and fitting work on a prototype liquid-fueled rocket with 500-ton thrust before the end of this year, the single most vital component to jump-start China’s manned space-travel programs.

The colossal engine will be partially fueled by liquid oxygen and kerosene, drawing on experience in developing motors of lower thrust, according to China’s Science and Technology Daily. The engine consists of three types of smaller boosters bundled together to be ignited at different stages of launch.

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The Long March 5 rocket. Photo: China Central TV screen grab

It would normally take five years of tests of prototypes before final delivery of the engine, in keeping with the 2030 launch schedule of China’s Long March 9, the cachet of the nation’s rocket technology with a diameter of 10 meters and capable of catapulting a payload of 100 tons into the low Earth orbit.

Making a more powerful engine is not the only challenge, as with the increase in thrust, the physical layout, thermal resistance and conductive design of the rocket and the payload, be it a satellite, space-station modules or a space shuttle housing taikonauts, will have to be meticulously considered and experimented to ensure absolute safety.

Engine technology is becoming a bottleneck as Beijing seeks to shoot more satellites and taikonauts into space, embarking on odysseys to reach the Moon by 2030 and even Mars.

In between the two lofty goals to put the Chinese flag on the two extraterrestrial bodies, the nation’s aerospace industry is also in a dire need of more powerful engines to deliver modules for its own space station.