by Douglas Messier
China’s Long March 7A rocket made its first successful flight on Friday, placing a technology verification satellite into orbit nearly a year after the booster failed in its maiden launch.
The booster lifted off at 1:51 a.m. from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China. The payload was the Shiyan-9 satellite, which will demonstrate new technologies.
A variant of the Long March 7 rocket, the three-stage booster is equipped with a third stage powered by hydrogen and liquid oxygen that is adapted from the older Long March 3B.
Long March 7A, which features four strap-on motors, is capable of launching 7 metric tons to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). This is a significant improvement on the Long March 3B, which can lift 5.5 metric tons to LEO.
Long March 7A’s first two stages and strap-on motors are powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen. These are cleaner propellants than the toxic hypergolic ones used on the Long March 3 and Long March 2 boosters, which Long March 7A will replace.
The maiden flight of Long March 7A failed during a classified launch on March 16, 2020. Long March 7 has succeeded in both of its launches.
China has succeeded in five of its six launches in 2021. An i-Space Hyperbola-1 booster carrying several unidentified payloads failed after launch on Feb. 1.