It is hardly surprising that China has admired and closely followed what SpaceX has accomplished thus far. Today, China, along with the United States, the European Union, Japan, and India, is one of the leading members of the global space race. China has long shared many ambitious plans that have clearly aimed to at least match other nations, foot for foot. However, in an odd turn of events, China appears to have taken a personal interest in matching Western nations’ space achievements. As a result, a recent presentation showed a sub-orbital earth-to-earth rocket, and while many are working on the concept, China won the distinction of designing a rocket that looks, inch for inch, similar to a SpaceX Starship render from four years ago.
A concept video showed a vertical liftoff rocket that looked exactly like Elon Musk’s headline SpaceX Starship in a presentation by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) at the recent Chinese national space day in the city of Nanjing. From the gleaming stainless steel exterior to the seamless separation of the first and second stages, China most likely claims to have invented it all on its own.
In 2017, SpaceX released a concept video demonstrating how its Starship could be used in sub-orbital flight to travel from anywhere on Earth to anywhere else in less than an hour. The company claimed a travel time of 39 minutes from New York to Shanghai, reaching speeds that even the peak era of hypersonic flight travel could never achieve. However, SpaceX has since shifted its focus to more affordable spaceflight concepts, such as nearly perfecting the catching of its first stage rocket booster in the middle of the sea, as well as a more advanced cockpit experience aboard the Crew Dragon.
In China, the state-sponsored CALT is reportedly planning to use its Starship ripoff to deliver cargo around the world by 2035, and passengers by 2045. In the future, China appears to intend to rip off SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which is now expected to be available in a heavy payload lifter model called the Long March 9. Given China’s reputation for cloning iconic Western products like Land Rover (aka Land Wind X7) and Rolls-Royce (aka Geely E6), it’s not surprising that China has followed suit in space.