China’s Long March 3B Returns to Service

Long March 3B. (Credit: CGWIC)

China’s Long March 3B flew for the first time since June on Sunday, placing a pair of Beidou positioning satellite into orbit after launching from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

The Long March 3B had suffered a partial failure of its third stage on June 19 that resulted in the Chinasat 9A  communications satellite being placed in a lower-than-planned orbit. The spacecraft reached its expected orbit using on-board fuel, resulting in a shorter on-orbit lifespan.

Meanwhile, China is making plans to launch its largest booster, Long March 5, again at some point in 2018.  The most recent flight of the heavy-lift rocket failed, destroying a Dongfanghong-5 satellite. It was the second launch of the booster after a successful maiden flight in November 2016.

Chinese officials were not announced the cause of the failure in July. There appears to have been a problem with the booster’s first stage.