China’s Manned Hypersonic Spaceplanes Much Better than US Unmanned One

With recent technological breakthroughs, Lockheed Martin hopes to fly the Mach 6 SR-72 unmanned hypersonic aircraft by 2030.
Lockheed Martin

The “Phantom Express” XS-1 is a DSTO space-launch vehicle, consisting of a rocket-powered launch plane and a second-stage rocket that will separate from the plane to launch 1.5 tons into low-earth orbit.

China’s TENG YUN manned spaceplane:
The Teng Yun, which CASIC intends to deliver by 2030, uses a TRCC-engined hypersonic carrier aircraft to carry the second rocket-powered stage into near space. Both stages will be reusable; the hypersonic carrier airframe could also be used to hypersonic strike and reconnaissance roles.

The Chinese hypersonic spaceplane, with a combined cycle engine that hops between jet, scramjets, and rockets, promises to be the ultimate form in reusable and easy space travel. In theory, it could cross the Pacific Ocean in one hour. China hopes to have these fast birds in the sky (with people onboard!) by 2030.

Popular Science publishes Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer’s June-17 article titled “American and Chinese aircraft could be flying 4,000 miles per hour by 2030: How China and the United States compare in the hypersonic arms race”

The following comparison shows that China’s are developed by state-owned enterprises with abundant government financial support due to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s strategy on the development of integrated space and air capabilities for both attack and defense. Therefore, China’s are larger, manned and faster than America’s. US models are small and unmanned. As they have not yet been funded by US government, developers will not make great investment for fear of incurring heavy losses if they fail to receive orders for their planned products.


Lockheed Martin’s SR-72 Scramjet Hypersonic airplane
Turbine rocket combined cycle (TRCC) engine
Not a spaceplane
Speed: Mach 6
Altitudes: 18 and 62 miles
test flight by 2030

Boeing’s XS-1 DARPA Phantom Express
Duel-state-to-orbit (DSTO) two-stage spaceplane
Stage one:
hypersonic plane powered by liquid fueled rockets. Once the XS-1 is in near space Altitude: 18- to 62-mile, stage two leaves stage one to go to space.
Stage two (to replace satellite):
Low-earth orbit
Weight: 1.5 ton

CASIC (the Chinese Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation)’s Teng Yun
DSTO two-stage spaceplane
First stage
TRCC engine
Speed: hypersonic
Altitude: near-space
Payload: 10-15 tons
For fast, global reconnaissance and strike
Second stage:
Manned or as launch rocket
Send five taikonauts or 2 ton cargo to Chinese space station.
To be delivered by 2030
Funds: $16 billion

CASC (Chinese Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation)’s spaceplane
A true spaceplane that can depart from and reenter orbit on multiple occasions during the same flight, traveling at greater speed compared to a near-space-only hypersonic aircraft such as SR-72.
SSTO (single-stage-to-orbit), a true spaceplane with only one stage
TRRE (The turbo-aided rocket-augmented ram/scramjet engine) paving the way for hypersonic near space planes and single-stage space launchers. The engine is to be developed by Beijing Power Machinery Research Institute to fly in 2025.
Manned for space travel
To fly with people on board by 2030

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Popular Science’s article, full text of which can be viewed at