China’s Satellite Launch Vehicle Surge

A Long March 3-B rocket lifts off with China's Chang'e-3 lunar rover. (Credit: CAST)
A Long March 3-B rocket lifts off with China’s Chang’e-3 lunar rover. (Credit: CAST)

China is in the midst of an overhaul of its satellite launch capabilities, with the introduction of five new launch vehicles in just over two years.


China Begins Assembly of First Flight-Ready Long March-5 Rocket

Long March 5 model
Long March 5 model

Chinese engineers have begun assembly of the first flight-ready Long March-5 rocket, which is set to make its inaugural launch later this year. The heavy-lift booster will be capable of lofting 25 metric tons into low Earth orbit.

Yang Hujun, vice chief engineer, has spoken about the next steps for the Long March-5 project.

“After the assembly is finished in the first half of this year, it will take a little more than a month to test it to ensure that the product is in good shape. The first launch will be made after it is out of the plant in the latter half of the year. ”

The new generation of rockets will come in 6 slightly different models – for manned space travel, as well as for the lunar and Martian exploration programs.

Among planned missions, is the Chang’e-5 lunar probe, which will be launched by the high-thrust carrier rocket to collect samples of moon soil by the end of 2017.

China Aims to Land Rover on Mars

China plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2021 by sending an orbiter and rover to Mars, officials said last week.

“Such a big plan to achieve orbiting, landing and the deployment of a rover in one mission will make history,” said Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of the mission. “Only by completing this Mars probe mission can China say it has embarked on the exploration of deep space in the true sense.”

The China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) is developing the orbiter and rover, which will be launched by the Long March-5 rocket. The new booster will make its inaugural flight later this year.

It will be China’s second attempt to send a mission to Mars. The Chinese Yinghuo-1 orbiter was a sub-satellite aboard Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission launched in November 2011. However, the mission never left Earth orbit due to a rocket engine failure.

Officials said pressure mounted on China to launch a Mars mission after rival India successfully placed a spacecraft in orbit around the Red Planet in 2014.


China Unveils Ambitious Plans to Explore the Universe:

China Headlines: China hopes to reach Mars in 2021:

The sky is not the limit: China’s Mars plan:

China Plans Launch of Permanent Space Station Around 2018

Artist's conception of China's Tianhe-1 space station. (Credit: China Manned Space Engineering)
Artist’s conception of China’s Tianhe-1 space station. (Credit: China Manned Space Engineering)

China plans to launch the core of its permanent Tianhe-1 space station around 2018, with full assembling of the multi-module facility due to be complete about four years later, officials said last week.


China Plans to Significantly Boost Launch Rate

Long March launch
Long March launch

China is looking to significantly increase its launch rate through 2020.

China will launch about 150 of its Long March carrier rockets over the next five years, one of its space chiefs said on Friday, days ahead of celebrations marking the launch of the country’s first satellite 46 years ago.

“In the 13th Five-Year Plan period [2016-2020], we will see about 30 launches [of the Long March series] each year,” Chen Xuechuan, assistant president of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, told Xinhua.

There were 86 Long March missions in the five years from 2011 to 2015, and 48 from 2006 to 2010….

The launch of the SJ-10 retrievable scientific research satellite earlier this month marked the 226th mission of the Long March rocket family, and the pace of launches is accelerating.

“Our first 100 Long March missions took us 37 years. But it only took us seven years to complete the latest 100,” Chen said.

Thirty launches annually would be higher than China is planning more than 20 launches this year, including:

  • Tiangong-2 space station in the fall
  • Shenzhou-11 with two astronauts for a 30-day mission aboard the space station
  • Inaugural flights of the Long March 5 heavy lift rocket and the Long March 7 medium lift booster
  • a high-definition Earth observation satellite
  • two BeiDou navigation satellites.

FAA Releases Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation

faa_compendium_2016The Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation: 2016

Executive Summary

The size of the global space industry, which combines satellite services and ground equipment, government space budgets, and global navigation satellite services (GNSS) equipment, is estimated to be about $324 billion. At $95 billion in revenues, or about 29 percent, satellite television represents the largest segment of activity. Following this is government space budgets at $76 billion, or 24 percent, and services enabled by GNSS represent, about $76 billion in revenues. Commercial satellite remote sensing companies generated on $1.6 billion in revenues, but the value added services enabled by these companies is believed to be magnitudes larger. Because remote sensing value added services includes imagery and data analytics from other sources beyond space-based platforms, only the satellite remote sensing component is included in the global space industry total.


China Plans Space Station & New Booster Launches in 2016

Model of the Tiangong-2 space station
Model of the Tiangong-2 space station

China’s ambitious space plans for 2016 include a crewed flight to a new space station and the maiden flights of the Long March 5 and Long March 7 boosters. The nation plans to set a new record for launches in a year with more than 20 flights.


Russia Led in Launch Successes and Failures in 2015

Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)
Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)

Russia continued its dominance of the global satellite launch industry in 2015, conducting 29 of 86 orbital launches over the past 12 months. It also maintained its lead in botched launches, suffering two failures and one partial failure.


China Test Fires Long March 5 Engine

Video Caption: All ground tests were completed on China’s largest-ever space rocket, the Long March 5, on Monday. The fifth-generation rocket from the Long March family is scheduled for a launch next year.

Chinese Test Fire Long March-5’s Engines

Long March 5 model
Long March 5 model

Chinese media are reporting the successful ground test of the engines for the Long March-5 booster, which is set or a test flight as early as 2016.

Scientists test-fired the engines of the Long March-5, which uses non-toxic and non-polluting liquefied propellant, on a ground facility to test “coordination and reliability” of the power system, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) said.

The Long March-5 will be China’s most powerful satellite launcher, with the capacity to place as much as 25 metric tons into low Earth orbit (LEO) and 14 metric tons into geostationary transfer orbit.

The launcher is also key to China’s efforts to built a multi-module space station in LEO and to return soil samples from the lunar surface.

China Test Fires Engine for New Long March 5 Rocket

China’s new rocket engine has passed its 200-second test. The test took place in an open field 50 kilometres from Xi’an, capital of Shaan’xi province, in northwest China.

The engine was assembled three years ago and has already undergone two tests which lasted 600 seconds each. Sunday morning’s test was to determine if it remains in peak condition. The engine can carry a load of 25 tons. That’s 16 more than the engine in the Long March 2 F, which carried the Shenzhou-9 mission last month. The new engine is fuelled with kerosene and liquid oxygen. That enables a saving of almost 10 million yuan in propellant load.

China is the second country in the world to master the technology, after Russia. The engine will be used in the new Long March 5 rocket in 2014.

China Progresses on Long March 5 Rocket

China's Long March 5 family of rockets. Credit: Jirka Dlouhy

The Xinhua news agency reports on China’s rocket progress:

Production on a major part of China’s Long March-5 large-thrust carrier rocket has been completed and its maiden voyage is expected to take place during the country’s 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015), according to its producer.

The Long March-5 rocket is scheduled to be put into service in 2014,Liang Xiaohong, deputy head of the CASC-affiliated China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology which designs and produces the rocket, has said during previous interviews.

With a maximum low Earth-orbit payload capacity of 25 tonnes and high Earth-orbit payload capacity of 14 tonnes, Long March V rockets will be among the world’s leaders in payload capacity and reliability, Liang said, adding that the 25-tonne maximum capacity is 2.5 times that of in-service Long March rockets.

The production of a core cabin for China’s manned space station and large satellites will also begin during the 2011-2015 period, Ma said.

Read the full story.

China Plans Out Ambitious Lunar Program; Long March 5 to Launch Lunar Probes, Stations

The Xinhua news agency reports that China is aiming for a soft landing on the moon within four years:

China plans to land Chang’e-3 on the moon at latest in 2013, Ye Peijian, chief designer of Chang’e-1, the country’s first moon probe, said here Monday. The mission of Chang’e-3 is to make soft landing and probe the moon, said Ye, a member of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s top political advisory body.


Long March 5 to Launch Space Station, Lunar Rovers

China will use its heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket to launch space stations, lunar rovers and large satellites beginning in 2014, according to a story on the China View website.

The rocket will be built in the Binhai New Area of Tianjin, a port city 120 km (75 miles) southeast of Beijing. It will then be transported by sea to a new launch complex that China is building on the island of Hainan. China expects to be able to construct a dozen Long March 5 rockets per year.

In a separate story, Chinese officials said they expect to launch a recoverable lunar rover in 2017 that would return soil samples to Earth. They view the rover as an essential stepping stone to human missions to the lunar surface.