XICHANG — With a Long March-3B rocket putting a new communication satellite into orbit on March 10, China’s Long March carrier rocket series completed 300 launches, having sent more than 500 spacecraft into space since 1970.
“This is a milestone for China’s space industry development,” said Wu Yansheng, board chairman of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
The Long March carrier rocket series, developed by CASC, are responsible for about 96.4 percent of all the launch missions in China.
It took 37 years for the Long March rockets to complete the first 100 launches, 7.5 years to complete the second 100 launches, and only about four years to accomplish the final 100, with the average number of launches per year increasing from 2.7 to 13.3 and then to 23.5.
“Intensive launches have become normal in China, indicating the rapid development of the space industry, the progress of science and technology and the enhancement of national strength,” said Shang Zhi, director of the Space Department of the CASC.
China joined the space club on April 24, 1970, when the Long March-1 carrier rocket launched the country’s first satellite, Dongfanghong-1, into orbit. At that time, the carrying capacity of the Long March rocket was only 300 kg.
On Nov 3, 2016, China’s current largest carrier rocket, the Long March-5, made its maiden flight, with its carrying capacity reaching 25 tons for low-Earth orbit and 14 tons for geosynchronous orbit.
The success rate of the 300 launches of the Long March rockets stood at 96 percent, according to CASC.
During the third 100 launches, the Long March rockets sent a total of 225 spacecraft, weighing about 240 tons, into space, with a success rate of 97 percent, reaching a high level in the world, said Shang.
From October 1996 to August 2011, the Long March rockets set a world record for 15 years of successful consecutive launches.
In 2018, the Long March rockets completed 37 consecutive successful launches, ranking a global first for highest number of successful launches.
A total of 17 types of Long March carrier rockets have been developed and put into use since 1970, ensuring the implementation of a series of key space projects including manned space program, lunar exploration, BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) and the Gaofen Earth observation project.
In addition, the Long March carrier rockets also launched a large number of meteorological satellites, resource satellites and oceanographic satellites, as well as several innovative science satellites including DAMPE to search for dark matter, the world’s first quantum satellite, and an electromagnetic satellite to study earthquakes, playing an important role in promoting the economic, social and scientific development in China.
Since the 1990s, the Long March rockets have been designed to be compatible with satellites manufactured in the United States, Europe and other countries and regions.
So far, Chinese rockets have launched 56 international commercial satellites and carried more than 20 small satellites or payloads into space for international customers.
The Long March carrier rockets helped provide launch services for countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, including Algeria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The services have been extended from launching satellites to the construction of ground facilities, and management and application of the satellites.