Long March 7 Makes Successful Inaugural Flight

Model of Long March 7 booster
Model of Long March 7 booster

China debuted the new medium-lift Long March 7 launch vehicle on Saturday from its new Wenchang Space Launch Center. It was the first launch from the new coastal spaceport.

The new booster carried a scaled-down version of a next-generation space vehicle designed to carry Chinese astronauts into Earth orbit and deep space. The spacecraft is set to land autonomously in Inner Mongolia after orbiting the Earth.

The two-stage Long March 7 is capable of launching 13,500 kg (29,800 lb) in low Earth orbit and 5,500 kg (12,100 lb) into sun synchronous orbit. The stages are powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene, which are cleaner than the hypergolic fuels that power older Long March boosters.

The new rocket is designed to replace the Long March 2 and Long March 3 boosters.  The first stage is based on the Long March 2F rocket that is used to launch cosmonauts into space aboard Shenzhou spacecraft. The new booster shares engines with the Long March 5 and Long March 6 rockets.

Long March 7 photo by Pline – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41264717

  • Congrats. Altas V-class rockets are awesome to have. And launching them from lower latitudes to get more payload to GEO is even better.

    I’m actually more interested in the reentry capsule tested. I’d love to see some pictures so we can get a look at their version of Apollo/Orion/Starliner.

  • Sam Moore

    There are some good pics of it post-recovery here; http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-06/26/c_135467394.htm

    Scale is about 60% of the real thing.

  • Good find!

    Is it a trick of the camera angle, or is the slope of the vehicle’s sides steeper than the previous artist’s rendering? (http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/05/12/next-generation-chinese-human-spacecraft-fly-june/) The second photo is the best, but it’s still very hard to get much detail.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    My initial impression is that it looks more Dragon than Starliner. That is to say, more cylinder than cone, so more volume for a given diameter.

  • Aerospike

    For the future Taikonauts sake, I hope the full size version will feature detachable parachutes. Apparently the test article was dragged trough the dessert by its parachute for quite some time 😀

  • Kapitalist

    Seems to work excellently for its short term purposes. But are liquid fuel strap on boosters really a good idea?
    And that tiny capsule landing in parachutes and being dragged around by a storm, well it doesn’t look like the far future ideal. Not the way to land on Mars.

  • Lee

    Well, the Russians have been using liquid fuel strap-ons on the R-7 family for something like 60 years… Seems to work for them.

  • JamesG

    Looks very much like the New Russian design.

    If it is a licensed copy, would be this sub-scale model be the first flight of the design?

  • Aerospike

    Not to forget that any “common core booster” architecture also has liquid “strap-ons”. Angara 5 comes to mind on the Russian side and let’s not forget delta IV heavy and (soon) Falcon heavy on the US side.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Put on some extra pumps and cross tank back to the core and …. you’ll get a very big performance increase.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Looks like the Chinese CZ 5, 6, and 7 is even more EELV than the EELV. I’m going to have to delve into this program as it seems they have common hardware throughout the program. Very smart.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Humm in that 8th photo it looks like that ground crew member was trained to climb Mt Suribachi.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Interestingly the Chinese basically grafted the YF-100 engine into the Long March 2F (CZ-2F) airframes. So they have a 2 & 1/2 stages instead of 2 stages with a monolithic booster core. So less payload due to the lower propellant mass fraction and less thrust after staging the strapped=on boosters.

    Looks less like a Atlas V equivalent and more like a Delta IV Medium+.

  • Sam Moore

    There’s a good bit less modularity than you’ll see on a lot of sites, as many are still dependent on obsolete sources. CZ-6 doesn’t use a common booster with CZ-7 anymore as it was too small, and CZ-5 doesn’t use the skinny boosters either because it gave performance that overlapped with CZ-7.

  • Yeah, I’d like a better photo, because it does look too sloped to be an Apollo clone. I would assumed from the article that I linked to that they were going to go with that configuration. One of the big benefits of it is that all of the technical data from Apollo was available on NTRS. You can bypass doing a bunch of trade studies, lab testing and streamline the flight test program by using the old info…

  • windbourne

    hard to tell, but in the end, they will all have similar designs.

  • John_The_Duke_Wayne

    Solids have been common in the US because the DoD wants to make sure the infrastructure for missiles and ICBM’s was well maintained. The Titan’s used solids because of a military requirement to allow them to maintain launch readiness for rapid deployment when necessary. The performance benefits of liquids make them superior for the commercial market. Solids are also complex and dangerous to handle on the ground which makes them only worth the trouble if your customer has a requirement or you just don’t want to develop a liquid engine. And the US has a legacy infrastructure around solids, how many operational 100-200k lb thrust liquid engines in active use in the US prior to the Merlin 1?

    Solids work but they are kind of a lazy solution to get quick payload increases without having to modify or develop new engines. So long term liquids are actually a better long term solution than solids, that just hasn’t been the case in the US