China Begins Assembly of First Flight-Ready Long March-5 Rocket

Long March 5 model
Long March 5 model

Chinese engineers have begun assembly of the first flight-ready Long March-5 rocket, which is set to make its inaugural launch later this year. The heavy-lift booster will be capable of lofting 25 metric tons into low Earth orbit.

Yang Hujun, vice chief engineer, has spoken about the next steps for the Long March-5 project.

“After the assembly is finished in the first half of this year, it will take a little more than a month to test it to ensure that the product is in good shape. The first launch will be made after it is out of the plant in the latter half of the year. ”

The new generation of rockets will come in 6 slightly different models – for manned space travel, as well as for the lunar and Martian exploration programs.

Among planned missions, is the Chang’e-5 lunar probe, which will be launched by the high-thrust carrier rocket to collect samples of moon soil by the end of 2017.

  • windbourne

    Wow. I always thought that FH would go first.
    Will have to see how spacex does in Nov.

  • savuporo

    Long March is a strangely appropriate name for it. Its been a long time coming. Best of luck, the more the merrier.

  • windbourne

    oh, I am sure that it will succeed on the first launch.
    It is a derivative of other rockets.

  • Jim R

    Doesn’t need FH to match LM-5. The latest SpaceX numbers show Falcon 9 can put 22.8 metric ton to LEO in full expendable mode.

  • windbourne

    wow. Just went looking for that. I had not see the numbers on the FT. That is HUGE. That also means that the FH using FT will have a corresponding increase. That should put it in the range of SLS.

    No wonder somebody said that SpaceX is working on a new hammerhead fairing. They need volume for it. Lots of Volume.

  • Sam Moore

    LEO capability doesn’t mean all that much, not exactly many LEO payloads around over 20 tons. CZ-5 has 14 tons GTO capability.

  • Jim R

    Yeah, it is a nice surprise but I’m not sure SpaceX wants to pitch FH against SLS. One thing is for sure though, FH no longer needs cross-feed to reach the reported 53 (now 54) metric ton to LEO performance.

  • Jim R

    Not many GTO payloads are over 7 tons either…

  • savuporo

    Every rocket is a derivative of other rockets. LM-5 is significant tho, a high energy upper stage with multi-restart capability. Even Ariane doesn’t have that yet, this is only comparable to Centaur.

  • windbourne

    MOST rockets are derivatives. F1 was not.
    And Lm-5’s stage 3 for GEO has been in use for a while.
    And having an H2/lox upper stage helps, but not that much.
    It all depends on costs.

  • windbourne

    cz-5 is 13 tonnes and F9 is 8 tonnes to GTO.
    FH WAS 22 tonnes to GTO, but it will very likely be around 35-40 tonnes to GTO with the new FT cores. Not bad for a launcher that costs $100M.

  • windbourne

    Oh, I do not think that they have to pitch it against SLS. The SLS is far too expensive and will hold back many missions. OTOH, If FH really goes this year, AND BFR is announced for 2020, I think that SLS will die its death.
    One thing that SpaceX needs to do is get their new fairing done. Supposedly one that is some 6-7 meters in diameter and longer. If true, I think that the ability to take multiple sats to GEO, and even a BA-330 (I wonder if they could do a BA-2100?) to LEO or higher would be huge.

  • passinglurker

    Cause not many rockets going out that far… (chicken or the egg logic intensifies)

  • Sam Moore

    LM-5’s LH upper stage is completely new, it’s CZ-7 that uses the existing stage.

  • Sam Moore

    They’re almost certainly looking at dual launch. Not really enough 20 tons payloads currently to try to dual launch those.

  • Jim R

    I’m not sure they have enough commsat to justify dual launch, Ariane does it because it launches 12 commsat per year.

  • Jim R

    I too heard about rumors of a bigger fairing, but now Bigelow went with ULA I’m not so sure. It’s possible there’s not enough customers to justify the development cost of a new fairing for the current upper stage, the current fairing is big enough for their commercial customers.

  • windbourne

    maybe.
    I am guessing that the company is fairly well stretched on both production AND R&D.
    and at the moment, they have to focus on production. IOW, they need to be launching 1x every 2 weeks or so.

  • savuporo

    That’s a very uninformed comment

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    No, FH will be 8 tonnes to GTO for $90 million, or 22.2 tonnes (fully expendable) for as yet undisclosed figure – probably in the region of $150 million. With the full-thrust cores they have been able to abandon cross-feed, which will simply the rocket and their production. Also, with BFR on the horizon there is no need to push the Falcon architecture into technical and financial uncertainty, since BFR will exceed it in both lift and economics.

    I have been thinking about the Bigelow/ULA alliance. Expandables seem like a great idea which you might have thought SpaceX would look to align with. However, Bigelow has made it quite clear that space and the future of humanity is of no interest to him – he’s only in it for the money. Further, MCT will have to be a solid structure, since it has to land and launch from Mars. The principal advantage of expandables is that they provide large volume accommodation, but only require “small” volume launchers. MCT, by definition, will be a large volume habitat, and BFR, by definition, will be large enough to launch it to LEO. With BFR being a cheap to launch (via being fully reusable) vehicle capable of lifting large habitat structures much of the expandables advantage, and Bigelow’s greed, can be circumvented. The moral of the story is, don’t get fixated on FH with BFR just around the corner, and, don’t get fixated on Bigelow expandables with BFR just around the corner.

  • Lee

    We used to say they called them “Long March” because it was a long march into the desert to pick up the pieces and try to figure out what went wrong. Not so much anymore.

  • windbourne

    In what way?

  • windbourne

    Hmm according to wiki, the 3rd stage has been flying on lm-3 for some time.

  • windbourne

    How has Bigelow said that neither space nor humanity matters to him?
    From most of what he said in past, as well as does, I would say it matters greatly.
    However, I think that he has likely invested around 300-400 M and needs to start making money in order to keep going.

  • Sam Moore

    CZ-5 hydrolox upper is ~5m diameter and uses pair of YF-75D expander-cycle engines, CZ3-A/B/C and CZ-7 hydrolox stage is 3m diameter and uses YF-75 GG engines. Just look at images of CZ-5 and CZ-3A/B/C, the stage is clearly far bigger.
    EDIT: And I’m looking at the wiki article on CZ-5 right now, it doesn’t say that.

  • savuporo

    Every statement.
    – F1 was a derivative of previous rockets in multiple ways. The main engine was closely related to TR-107, and overall architecture is something that has been done before. The basic idea of easily deployed small LOX/RP booster – PGM-17 Thor, which also had some spectacular kabooms while lifting off from pacific islands, even same failure modes

    – YF-75D is a new development, has not flown and completed qualification tests last year. Restartability is a new feature vs previous YF-75 versions
    – As earth departure stage, LH2/LOX is unrivaled.

  • windbourne

    huh.
    Where did F1’s avionics come from?
    And the rocket design?
    And all of the spacex engines are their own. Heck, they were the first to be doing 3D printing on the draco.

    and when did Musk work on PGM-17 Thor? Did he help design it? Nope. It is Irrelevant that it existed when you gain no knowledge directly from it.
    Making that claim that you did, would be like claiming that USSR’s shuttle was a copy of America’s shuttle or that soviet planes were direct copies of American planes (started with 4 engines, then 3, then 2).

    YF-75D is the SECOND stage and is NOT THE UPPER STAGE. The TOP STAGE, according to WIKI, is the Yuanzheng-2.

    And as to LH2/LOX being the BEST CHEMICAL ENGINES, that is IRRELEVANT. Totally IRRELEVANT.
    What IS relevant, is if SpaceX can send up a 20 tonne sat for say 5M to GTO using RP/LOX, and China will charge 100M, BUT, they will use the nifty LH2/LOX stage, who do you think will win the most commercial launches (assuming everything else is the same)?

    Economics is what is relevant to launches. Musk understand that. You obviously don’t.

    As such, yours was a very uninformed comment,.

  • windbourne

    look again at the wiki.
    The upper stage of the LM-5 is Yuanzheng-2.

  • Sam Moore

    YZ-2 is an optional kickstage for tasks like placing multiple Beidou sats in final orbits and direct GSO insertion, it’s not likely to be present on most flights. Regardless, it is also roughly 5m diameter and is not the same as the roughly 3m YZ-1 for CZ-3A series and CZ-7.

  • Sam Moore

    How are the economics of SpaceX remotely relevant to the Chinese? The only commercial sats they’re launching are domestically-built ones, usually in a package with construction of ground stations and staff training; launch cost is only a small part of that.
    P.S.; writing in all-caps doesn’t make your points any more persuasive.

  • windbourne

    oops. I missed that part.

  • windbourne

    First, the Chinese are launching large numbers of sats for other nations and commercial work. They simply do not launch any that make use of American technology. But other nations, and even in Europe, they DO make sats without our tech.

    Secondly, economics is EVERYTHING WRT space, esp launches. Saturn V, The Shuttle, along with our new SLS, are great example of technical success, but economic failures. The economics of these launch systems was so bad that they killed the programs. Same things happen in other launch system that operate outside of the gov pervues and do launches for others.

    Third, the majority of upper case in the previous was abbreviations which are correctly uppercase (which is one of the issues with aerospace/military due to heavy use of abbreviations, as you know).
    about 8 words were upper cased for emphasis onle