Chinese space industry will give us opportunity to look at their new products in 2016. Two new models from Long March are going to meet changing demands of customers around the globe.
Russia is building Vostochny space center – China has already new one. Wenchang Satellite Launch Center was finished in October 2014 around two years before Vostochny space center and is mostly designed for missions of newly designed rockets. It is sign of times – in recent years Soviet Union and later Russia was rather at the forefront of space race than China. Now everything changed and Russia is starting to lose its position. Of course still it has technical potential and years of experience in terms of manned missions but China is going really strong. Recently it was announced that on 2016 we will see new and smaller rockets from Long March series – You can read more here. Now according Xinhua news agency, we know that we can expect to see new heavy Long March 5 and new medium Long March 7. To sum up – on 2016 China will present at least four new rockets – from heavy to small. It is impressive plan but is it really possible? According to official Chinese sources yes. Time will show – let’s have a look to check Long March 5 and Long March 7 possibilities.
Long March 5 is long awaited rocket – maybe not by competitors of China on space market, but for sure for whole team of people working on Chinese Moon Program. Rocket is developed by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) under China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASC). Decision of starting development of Long March 5 dates on 2001, but finally funds were granted in 2007. Rocket will be produced in new CALT factory in TEDA West area in Tianjin city, near Beijing. Factory will be able to produce around 30 rockets annually; launches will be performed from Wenchang in Hainan Province. Rockets will be transported by Sea on special ship called Yuan Wang 21 (first Long March 5A was shipped already from Tianjin on 20 September 2015). Wenchang Satellite Launch Center was specially placed at the south end of China to take benefits from small distance from Equator. Additional centrifugal force will let rockets launched from Wenchang to lift up to 300 kg payload more and bring around $6 million savings.
Long March 5 was designed as modular rocket based on various core stages with length up to 60.5 m and diameter up to 5.2 m and mass up to 643 t. Core will be supported by boosters – again in various dimensions: with diameter from 2.25 m to 3.35 m. Propulsion will be also modular. It is planned to use engines fueled with liquid oxygen and kerosene or liquid hydrogen. Propulsion will be two new engines YF-100 and YF-77. In some versions upper stage will be utilized to place payload on GTO – in such case it will be powered by modified YF-75 engine. Long March 5 at present stage of development has two versions 5A and 5B. First one will be able to lift to LEO 25 t of payload with own mass at 869 t (propulsion will provide total thrust of 10.64 MN). Second will be utilized for GTO missions – with possibility of lifting 14 t with own mass at 837 t (propulsion will generate also 10.64 MN). These two versions are only beginning of future combinations of different cores and boosters – flexibility was one of main objectives during designing Long March 5. After starting first commercial missions, Long March 5 is going to replace Long March 2, 3 and 4 in current service. Reason for developing Long March 5 was mainly Chinese Moon program and Tiangong-2 space station. Moon probes Chang’e-5 (planned for 2017) and Chang’e-6 (planned for 2020) are basing on utilization for launching heaviest version of Long March 5. Also future Tiangong-3, first Chinese large modular space station planned for 2020 is strongly basing on possibilities of new rocket. Of course in spite of Chang’e and Tiangong, new rocket due its flexibility will bring savings for CNSA – it is first so flexible and universal launch vehicle developed in China.
New Long March 7 rocket was designed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation to fill the gap between new heavy Long March 5 and its variants and Small Long March 6. It is based in mostly on proven Long March 2F – core diameter is identical (3.35 m) along with diameter of liquid fueled boosters (2.25 m). Differences are generally in propulsion – it remain liquid fueled but instead of N2O4/UDMH it will utilize liquid oxygen and kerosene. New generation of engine will be used, same like in Long March 5 – YF-100 (we can see that savings were also significant factor during rocket development – kerosene is less expensive than N2O4/UDMH). This same engine will be propulsion of core and of each strap-on booster (again using same engine is making whole process of manufacturing far easier and less expensive). Rocket is designed to lift into SSO orbit up to 5500 kg. Long March 7 will operate from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center and will be manufactured, as Long March 5, in same new CALT factory in Tianjin.
On picture above You can see Wenchang city without sound of rocket engines yet.