The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC) has successfully test-fired the YF-100 liquid-fuel rocket engine for the nation's new heavy-lift launch vehicle, the Long March 5.
The test, in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, ran for 200s and sustained 120t of thrust, according to CASTC. The liquid oxygen/kerosene combustion cycle engine is by far the most powerful rocket ever built in China.
The YF-100, or 'Heart' as it is referred to in Chinese, will be the core stage of the Long March 5, meant to be the next generation of Chinese launch vehicles.
The Long March 5 will come in five different configurations, capable of launching from 1,500kg to 23,000kg into low Earth orbit (LEO), according to Flightglobal/Ascend's SpaceTrak database.
The first flight of the Long March 5 is scheduled for 2014, and while subsequent missions have not formally been announced, China has declared its intention to launch lunar and martian rovers in advance of eventual crewed flights to both celestial bodies, in addition to putting larger payloads in LEO.
China is reportedly close to finished with the launch vehicle's launch site on Hainan Island, in southeast China.
While the test denotes a remarkable technical achievement, China's relatively new space programme lags behind the more established programmes in Russia and the US.
While the YF-100 is immensely powerful, it falls slightly short of current US heavy launch vehicles (Delta IV and Atlas V), and only half the capability of planned launchers like the Falcon 9 Heavy and the Space Launch System, due to fly in 2013 and 2018 respectively.