The launch of a Long March-2F Y12 rocket on June 17, 2021.

A model of a Long March 9 launch vehicle suggests that Chinese scientists are coming around to the idea that reuse rockets are the future.

The updated model was presented by a team in China at the air show. The new Long March 9 design, with its grid fins and noticeably absent side boosters, is reminiscent of SpaceX's Starship. According to SpaceNews, the design director at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology confirmed the new direction but said the design hasn't been finalized.

The concept was spearheaded by Musk and he proved it could be accomplished. The CEO of the company said that the rockets that aren't re-usable have no future.

The CEO of the company didn't mention NASA's expendable Space Launch System by name. Each launch of the Artemis rocket is expected to cost up to $4.1 billion, and the inspector general has called the price unsustainable.

SLS is obsolete since it hasn't left the launch pad. China isn't willing to follow that same path. NASA went with an expendable megarocket 12 years ago in a decision guided by politics and budget constraints. It wasn't obvious to everyone back then that rockets could be used safely. It wasn't obvious to NASA in 2010, but perhaps it should have been, given that the space agency is so celebrated for its achievements.

China first proposed the idea of building a super heavy launch vehicle for the purpose of transporting crews and cargo to Earth and the moon. The first launch of NASA's Space Launch System is set to take place on November 16.

The original plan was for the Long March 9 to deliver 100 metric tons, but China appears to be thinking bigger, both in terms of the rocket's power and its recyclability According to SpaceNews, the Long March 9 has been upgraded to include three stages and be able to lift 150 metric ton. The weight of the rocket is 4,180 metric tons.

According to SpaceNews, senior CALT officials have presented new concepts for the Long March 9 in the past. The first stage of the company's Falcon 9 is known for its reuse, but the heir apparent to the world's most powerful rocket, Starship, will be fully re-usable. The first launch of the fully stacked two stage Starship could happen later this year.

The design of the Chinese rocket has not been finalized and China has never performed a controlled vertical landing of a rocket, according to SpaceNews. According to the South China Morning Post, the Long March 9 will be up and running by the year 2035. The recent hot fire test of the 500-metric-ton-thrust YF-130 engine suggests that China is making progress.

If SLS has a future, it's best to wait and see. Congress and tax payers may be fed up with the concept and opt for a different one.

Artemis 1: To boldly go where the four previous engines have gone before.