China Plans Another Busy Launch Year with Return of Long March 5

Long March 5 on the launch pad. (Credit: China National Space Administration)

After a record 39 launches in 2018, China is planning to launch over 50 satellites aboard more than 30 launch vehicles this year, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has announced.

The manifest includes the return to flight of China’s largest launch vehicle, Long March 5, after a two-year stand down. The booster, which can lift 14 metric tons to low Earth orbit (LEO), failed during its second flight on July 2, 2017 after a successful maiden flight eight months earlier.

Plans call for Long March 5 to launch the Shijian 20 spacecraft in July. The spacecraft is an ultra-high performance geosynchronous communications satellite.

If the flight is successful, another Long March 5 will launch the Chang’e-5 spacecraft to the moon. The mission will return soil samples from the lunar surface.

Engineers are also preparing the upgraded Long March 5B booster for its first flight. The rocket, which will be capable of launching 22 metric tons to LEO, will launch elements of China’s new space station.

CASC officials also said there are plans to launch 10 BeiDou navigation satellites this year. A total of 18 BeiDou spacecraft were launched in 2018. The entire system will be completed next year.

China plans to launch the Gaofen-7 remote sensing satellite later this year, officials said.

The first sea launch of the Long March 11 will also occur in 2019. An additional three Long March 11 flights are planned from land.

The government launches could be joined by a number of private ones this year. Space News reports OneSpace and iSpace plan to conduct orbital launches of their boosters in the first half of 2019. Each company launched suborbital versions of their rockets twice last year.

Landspace might also attempt another launch of its Zhuque-1 solid rocket this year. The maiden launch of the booster failed in October due to an anomaly in its third stage.

  • Saturn1300
    This rocket looks like a good candidate for a reusable 1st stage. A central engine with several engines in a circle around it. I hope they do it and it works. Now if they can just fix those vibrations. One Web flight delayed. Split helium line that pressurizes the fuel on the Soyuz.

  • ThomasLMatula

    It is not easy for private parties to use radioactive materials because of numerous regulations. Also the usual anti-nuke mob would be out in droves filing lawsuits and at the Cape protesting its launch on the Falcon 9.

  • Saturn1300

    A cheap school project and they let them die. They did have one in the lander and rover and they say they made it.
    Come on, Madam Currie did it and today we can not.?

  • ThomasLMatula

    The anti-nuke folks have done a good job of getting the public, and researchers, to be terrified of nuclear materials. But then that is why global warming is so bad as their irrational fears led to utility industry in the 1970’s from replacing coal power plants with clean nuclear powered ones.

  • Saturn1300

    Cost more likely. Since SLS 1st stage and boosters could be recovered , but will not, do you think the Russian heavy, because it is all liquid, will be worth reusing or is it cheaper to build a new one each time?

  • windbourne

    I’ve written Perry several times to suggest requiring that those within 50-100 of the coast to use desalinated water. Then offer up subsidies to utilities to build SMRs. Their waste heat is ideal for making it cheap.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yep, if Israel is able to use desalinated water for 40% of their needs we could as well.