A Chinese next-generation crewed spacecraft landed on Friday after a nearly three-day automated flight in Earth orbit.
Pictures from Chinese media showed the capsule descending under three parachutes. The vehicle had made a high-speed reentry from a final orbit of 523 x 6,278 km (325 x 3,901 miles) to simulate a return from deep space.
The new spacecraft, which will carry up to six astronauts, is intended to replace the three-seat Shenzhou spaceship now in use. China will use the new vehicle for operations in Earth and lunar orbit.
A Long March 5B launched the spacecraft into Earth orbit on Tuesday from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. It was the maiden flight of Long March 5 variant, which will be used to launch elements of China’s first permanent space station next year.
Long March 5B has a core stage with four strap-on boosters. It lacks the upper stage of the Long March 5, which is used to send communications satellites to geosynchronous orbit and probes to the moon and planets.
In a crucial step forward for China’s human and robotic spaceflight programs, a Long March 5B booster conducted its maiden flight on Tuesday carrying a prototype of the nation’s next-generation crewed spacecraft.
China’s most powerful rocket lifted off at 1000 GMT (6 p.m. local time) from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. Chinese media have reported the launch from the nation’s southern spaceport was successful.
BEIJING, February 7, 2020 (CASC PR) — Only one month after the successful launch of the Long March 5 and Long March 3 rockets, another member of the Long March 5 rocket family, developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), started its first journey.
Video Caption: The YF-77 rocket engine for the Long March-5 Y4 launch vehicle was tested for 100 seconds on CASC’s rocket engine test facility in Beijing, China, on 19 January 2020. Wang Shuguang, director of engine test, presented the facility and Wang Weibin, deputy chief designer of the Long March-5 rockets, explained the test. YF-77 is China’s first cryogenic rocket engine that burns liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as fuel. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) is the main contractor for the China’s space program.
China’s Long March 5 returned to flight on Friday after being ground for 2.5 years, placing an experimental communications satellite into orbit and seeming to pave the way for a series of ambitious human and science missions.
The nation’s most powerful launch vehicle lifted off from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center with the Shijian 20 satellite. Chinese media said the mission was successful in placing the spacecraft into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.
It was the third launch of Long March 5, and the first since an in-flight failure on July 2, 2017. The booster successfully placed the Shijian 17 satellite into orbit on its maiden flight in November 2016.
A successful launch was crucial for for a number of future launches. China plans to launch the Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and a small surface rover next July.
The Chang’e 5 lunar sample return mission will follow during the fourth quarter of 2020. Other missions planned through 2024 include:
test flight of a next generation crew vehicle;
modules of China’s first permanent space station beginning in 2021;
Chang’e-6 lunar sample return;
Jun Tian space telescope; and,
Solar Polar Orbit Telescope.
Long March 5 is designed to launch payloads weighing 25,000 kg into low Earth orbit, 14,000 kg into geosynchronous transfer orbit and 8,200 kg into trans-lunar injection.
Wenchang is China’s newest spaceport and the only one of the four launch centers located on the coastline.
The year 2018 was the busiest one for launches in decades. There were a total of 111 completely successful launches out of 114 attempts. It was the highest total since 1990, when 124 launches were conducted.
China set a new record for launches in 2018. The nation launched 39 times with 38 successes in a year that saw a private Chinese company fail in the country’s first ever orbital launch attempt.
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.
In recent weeks, Chinese officials have revealed more details about the investigation into the Long March 5 launch failure last year as well as their ambitious launch plans for this year, which include a landing on the far side of the moon.
Long March 5 will be returned to flight in the second half of 2018, according to Bao Weimin, head of the Science and Technology Committee of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). Engineers have identified the cause of a launch failure that occurred last July and are working to verify it, he said.
China conducted its first launch of 2018 on Tuesday when a Long March 2D booster lofted a pair of SuperView imaging satellites into polar orbit for Beijing Space View Technology. The rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center.
“Success! We’re thrilled to announce the successful launch of SuperView-1 03&04 satellites at 11:26 this morning in Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center!” the company tweeted.
The launch doubled the number of high-resolution SuperView satellites the company has on orbit. It plans to sell imagery on the global market.
GBTimesreports China could launch more than 40 times in 2018, which would be a substantial increase over the 18 launches the nation conducted last year.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), announced at a conference on January 2 that its 2018 work model includes 35 launches, underlining the return to flight of the heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket, the Chang’e-4 lunar far side mission and launches of Beidou navigation satellites as the major activities.
In addition CASIC, a defence contractor, missile maker and sister company of CASC, will carry out a number of missions through its subsidiary EXPACE, including launching four Kuaizhou-1A rockets within one week and the maiden flight of the larger Kuaizhou-11.
Landspace Technology, a Beijing-based private aerospace company, is also expected to debut its LandSpace-1 solid propellant rocket this year.
SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.
The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.
The failure of a Russian Soyuz booster to orbit a weather satellite and 18 CubeSats on Tuesday was the sixth launch mishap of the year. That total includes five total failures and one partial failure out of 79 orbital launches.
On Jan. 14, the maiden launch of Japan’s SS-520 microsat booster failed after takeoff from the Uchinoura Space Centre. JAXA said controllers aborted second-stage ignition after losing telemetry from the rocket. The booster was carrying the TRICOM-1 nanosat.
A second launch has been scheduled for Dec. 25. The SS-520 is an upgraded version of a Japanese sounding rocket.
The maiden flight of Rocket Lab’s Electron booster failed after launch from New Zealand on May 25. Company officials said controllers terminated the flight after faulty ground equipment lost telemetry from the booster, which was functionally nominally. Rocket Lab is gearing up for a second launch attempt that could occur in December.
China’s Long March 3B suffered a partial failure on June 19 after launch from Xichang. An under performing third stage left the ChinaSat 9A communications satellite in a lower-than-planned orbit. The spacecraft reached its proper orbit using on board propulsion, with a reduction of its orbital lifetime.
On July 2, a Chinese Long March 5 booster failed after liftoff from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. The rocket was carrying an experimental geostationary satellite named Shijian 18. It was the second launch and first failure for China’s largest booster. Officials have no announced the cause of the failure.
India’s PSLV rocket suffered a rare failure when the payload shroud failed to separate during a launch on Aug. 31. The IRNSS-1H regional navigation satellite was lost. The booster is set to return to service on Dec. 30.
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.
The International Astronautical Congress has been going on all week down in Adelaide, Australia. In addition to Elon Musk’s presentation on Friday and some news I’ve already posted here, there have been a few updates on various programs.
Boeing CST-100 Starliner. Boeing is aiming for a test flight of the CST-100 Starliner to the International Space Station in the third quarter of 2018. However, the first crewed test flight could slip from the fourth quarter of 2018 into the first quarter of 2019. Link
Rocket Lab. The company’s next test launch will carry will two Dove Cubesats from Planet and a pair of Lemur CubeSsats from Spire Global. The satellite will allow Rocket Lab to test deploying spacecraft from the second stage of its Electron rocket. The launch is planned for several weeks from now. Link
Long March 5. The failure of a Long March 5 booster in July will delay the launch of China’s Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission, which had been scheduled for November. The Chang’e-4 mission, which will land on the far side of the moon, also will be delayed. That flight had been scheduled for late next year. The accident investigation is ongoing. Link
Chinese media report the launch of the Long March 5 rocket carrying an experimental communications satellite failed in flight on Sunday.
“An anomaly occurred during the flight of the rocket, which blasted off at 7:23 p.m. from Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern province of Hainan,” the Xinhua news agency reported.
Xinhau provided no further details about the failure. An investigation is underway.
The Shijian 18 communications satellite was lost in the accident. The spacecraft was the first in a new class of DFH-5 satellites designed for high-power performance communications. Shijian 18 would have tested ion propulsion and other technologies.
China’s most powerful booster, the Long March 5 had a successful maiden launch last November. It is slated to launch the Chang’e-5 lunar mission later this year. Chang’e 5 will land on the moon and return soil samples to Earth.
The failure comes two weeks after a Long March 3B suffered a malfunction that left the ChinaSat 9A communications satellite in a lower than planned orbit.