Development of the engine began in the 2000s, along with its sibling, the smaller YF-115, which would power the LM-6 and LM-7 upper stages. Testing was directed by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) commencing in 2005. Development works are mainly carried out by the Xi'an Aerospace Propulsion Institute. The engine had its first 300 seconds test fire on November 2007.
A high efficiency/high thrust environmentally-friendly rocket engine was always an objective within Programme 863.[when?] But Chinese industry was not mature enough to produce such a rocket until they obtained examples (and probably documentation) of the Russian RD-120 in the early 1990. It is the first Chinese rocket engine to adopt the staged-combustion cycle and the most powerful to date. During July 2012 the engine fired for 200 seconds generating 120 t (260,000 lb) of thrust. On May 28, 2012, the National Defense Science and Industry Bureau certified the engine.
The YF-100 is a pump-fed oxidizer rich staged combustion rocket engine. It has adjustable thrust and variable mixture ratio. Its preburner burns all the LOX mass flow with a bit of kerosene to generate hot gas that powers the single turbine. The turbopump is a single-shaft design, with a single-stage oxygen pump and a dual-stage kerosene pump driven by the same turbine. It also has two low pressure pumps that prevent cavitation. This arrangement is very similar to the RD-170 design. The engine has a heat exchanger to heat oxygen gas for LOX tank pressurization, and also supplies high pressure kerosene as hydraulic fluid for the thrust vector control actuators.  The development required ten years of research, requiring the mastering of 70 key technologies, the development of 50 new materials and the construction of 61 sets of engines with a combined total of more than 40,000 seconds of ignition time by 2013.