Popular Science: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation is beginning advanced research on a high tech, more efficient successor to the retired Space Shuttle, with hybrid combined cycle engines that can takeoff from an airport's landing strip and fly straight into orbit. By Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer
'The hybrid space plane's combined cycle engines would use turbofan or turbojet engines to takeoff horizontally from a landing strip. Once airborne, the engine then shifts to ramjet propulsion and, as speed increases, adjusts into a scramjet engine with supersonic airflow. At the scramjet stage, the hybrid spaceplane would enter hypersonic flight in 'near space', the part of the atmosphere between 20km to 100km above sea level. Finally, the hybrid spaceplane would use its rocket motors to push out of near space and into orbit.
'Broadcasts by both state television broadcaster CCTV, and its English service, note that the CASTC spaceplane's easy reusability would exponentially bring down space launch costs.
'Zhang Yong, a CASTC engineer, claimed that China will master the spaceplane's technologies in the next three to five years, and a full-scale spaceplane would then enter service by 2030.
'Interestingly, another CASTC engineer, Yang Yang, mentioned that the spaceplane would improve "ease of access to space for untrained persons," as the space plane would have more gradual acceleration than a space launch rocket (reducing the physical strain on astronauts during takeoff), suggesting a version of the spaceplane which could be used for space tourism.'