China will send two new models of carrier rocket in the Long March series on their maiden space trips in 2016, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASC) said on Jan 16.
The country’s strongest carrier rocket, Long March-5 has a payload capacity of 25 tonnes to low Earth orbit, or 14 tonnes to geostationary transfer orbit. It is scheduled to carry the Chang’e-5 lunar probe around 2017 to finish the last chapter in China’s three-step (orbiting, landing and return) moon exploration program.
According to a CASC statement, which did not specify either of the rockets’ missions this year, Long March-5 is currently being tested at a launch site in south China’s Hainan Province.
A medium-sized rocket using liquid propellants, Long March-7 will carry up to 13.5 tonnes to low Earth orbit or 5.5 tonnes to sun-synchronous orbit at a height of 700 km. It will carry cargo craft for the planned space station.
“The two carrier rockets’ maiden flights will significantly boost our country’s ability to enter space and help realize leapfrog development in our space transportation system,” said the CASC.
Both rockets were developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology under the CASC.
According to the statement, the academy will be responsible for the launch of 15 space missions this year, covering manned space projects, China’s satellite navigation system and satellites for civilian and commercial uses.
Earlier on Saturday, a Long March-3B rocket carried a Belarusian telecom satellite into intended orbit from southwest China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center. This was China’s first orbital mission of 2016 and the 223rd launch of the Long March series.
The CASC said it will publish pertinent specifications of the Long March carrier rockets online soon so that international clients interested in China’s launch services can adjust their satellites to be compatible.
“Many international satellite companies will be able to adopt these connector standards and entrust the launch of their satellites to us,” said Li Tongyu, head of the academy’s aerospace department.
Saturday’s mission marked the first time China had launched a satellite for a European country.
“The successful launch of the Belarusian satellite will boost the Chinese aerospace industry’s global competitive power and pave the way for the export of Chinese satellites, rockets and space equipment,” said Wu Yanhua, vice head of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence.
China has successfully completed 43 launch missions for more than 20 countries, regions and international satellite organizations since 1990.