• A Long March-2D carrier rocket blasts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Dec. 2008 in Gansu Province.

A Long March-2D carrier rocket blasts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Dec. 2008 in Gansu Province. (Photo : Getty Images)

A cutting-edge aerospace vehicle is being developed by space scientists from China, which will allow the public to travel into space as well as use it for astronaut missions, China Daily reported.

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The spacecraft, being developed by researchers at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, will combine the use of turbine engine, ramjet and rocket engine, to propel itself into space. The academy is part of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

According to Zhang Yong, deputy chief designer at the academy's research and development center, the spacecraft will first take off from a conventional runway using turbine engines, similar to those on planes or rocket-based combined cycle engines.

The ramjet on the spacecraft will be activated once it reaches a certain speed, to thrust it to the stratosphere or the next layer of the atmosphere, the mesosphere. Zhang said that the spacecraft will be put into orbit at this point using rocket engines.

A form of jet engine, ramjet makes use of forward motion to compress incoming air.

Zhang said that the new spacecraft can transport people several kilometers above the Earth, for space travel and for potential space missions, at a much lower cost but with a higher safety consideration compared with rockets. He added that the spacecraft has a huge potential use for space tourism or intercontinental travel.

"Space travelers will have a short period of weightlessness when the vehicle reaches an altitude of about 100 kilometers. If the spacecraft continues to fly up to 400 km above Earth, passengers will experience what it is like to be in a space station," Zhang said.

Yang Yang, a designer at the academy's Institute of Combined-Cycle Aerospace Vehicle Technology, said rockets are now mostly used by countries engaged in space exploration activities.

"Rockets have an ultrafast acceleration during flight, resulting in very strict requirements for astronauts' physical condition. In comparison, the combined-powered spacecraft will gather speed slowly and gently, making the air pressure acceptable to non-astronauts," Yang said, adding that the space craft can also be used to send satellites into orbits.

Wang Ya'nan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said, "Such a vehicle will be able to fly over the Pacific Ocean within an hour, because it will travel in near-space at a speed of 7,000 km/h."

The success of the project will depend on the efficiency of the rocket-based combined cycle and turbine-based combined cycle technologies, according Yang Yuguang, secretary of the International Astronautical Federation's Space Transportation Committee.