China Plans World's Biggest Rocket in Space Tourism Race

china space tourism
The state-backed China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology is planning a spacecraft capable of carrying up to 20 passengers. China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

A winged rocket capable of taking off from a launchpad, landing on a runway and carrying 20 passengers to the edge of space is being developed in China as part of a major push towards space tourism.

State-backed firm China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology is going up against Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin by aiming to offer commercial spaceflight. According to New Scientist, however, the company's space plane will be far larger than rival craft.

"More and more common persons are interested in the experience of space flight," the company said in a paper presented at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara in Mexico last week.

space tourism china
The winged rocket will have space for 20 passengers. China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

Trips on the space craft would cost between $200,000 and $250,000, according to Han Pengxin, a team leader at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology. This puts it at around the same price as flights offered by Virgin Galactic.

This price would be achieved by adding a payload to the craft, such as a satellite, which would offset the competitive pricing for space tourists.

This is a similar business strategy to Blue Origin, the space travel firm created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Bezos announced earlier this year that he hopes Blue Origin will be capable of taking tourists into space in 2018.

Virgin Galactic has refused to set a date for when its craft will be passenger-ready. In a statement released earlier this year, Virgin Galactic said: "When we are confident we can safely carry our customers to space, we will start doing so.

"We feel incredibly honored that our earliest paying customers already number more than the total number of humans who have ever been to space."