This is sort of interesting, if true:
NASA sees China’s strategy for a manned lunar landing as launch vehicle intensive. While America’s notional Constellation moon project centers on a single – and still unbuilt – Ares-V “superheavy” lift booster for a direct ascent to the moon and two “lunar orbit rendezvous” operations, China will likely opt for two complex “Earth orbit rendezvous” maneuvers.
This will require four “Long March V” rockets – in the same class as the Pentagon’s Delta IV heavy lift launch vehicles – to put their cosmonauts on the moon. Launched in pairs over a two-week period from China’s new Wenchang Space Center on the South China Sea island of Hainan, the four Long March Vs will each loft 26-ton payloads into low Earth orbits. The first mission will orbit the rocket for the translunar journey which will then join a second payload of an empty lunar module (LM) and its lunar-orbit rocket motor. Those first two unmanned payloads will rendezvous in Earth orbit and then fire off for the quarter-million-mile journey to the moon.
Once the unmanned LM is in a stable lunar orbit, the second pair of missions will be launched into Earth’s orbit; the first with another translunar rocket motor and the second with a combined payload comprising the lunar orbiting module, a modified service module, an Earth re-entry module and the manned Shenzhou capsule with three Chinese cosmonauts.
Unlike many at NASA, they’re smart enough to avoid the huge development costs of a heavy-lifter. Of course, it will still be a very expensive mission, but based on existing vehicles. We looked at these kinds of architectures at Boeing during CE&R, before Mike Griffin took over and they became anathema. Of course, we were trying to actually satisfy the requirements of the VSE and the Aldridge recommendations, something that Mike apparently never considered important.
I should add that the article is clearly wrong on this point:
October’s launch of the experimental Ares 1-X heavy lift rocket, while flawless, may well mark the end rather than the beginning of America’s next-generation Constellation manned-space program.
It was hardly “flawless,” unless you don’t consider a failure to deploy all the chutes a flaw.