Chinese Long March 7 rocket started its maiden mission from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center Launch Pad 201.
Rocket was launched punctually at 12:00 GMT, although previous gossips that launch will be postponed to 13:30 GMT. According to Chinese media rocket delivered to orbit experimental model of capsule of new Chinese manned spacecraft along with one Aoxiang Zhixing 12U Cubesat and two small satellites: “ADRV” and “BPV”. Rocket also lifted ballast satellite. Due the lack of live broadcast, particular phases of flight are at the moment unknown, but probably at T+10′ successful separation of Rocket and YZ-1 upper stage was already performed. At T+23′ official statement from Chinese authorities confirmed that mission finished with success.
Aoxiang Zhixing is research satellite designed and manufactured by Shaanxi Engineering Laboratory for Microsatellites (SELM). It is not equipped with solar arrays but is powered only with onboard battery. It weighs 33 kg and its mission covers measuring gravity and skylight polarization. Satellite will be placed on LEO with altitude of 380 km and inclination at 40°.
Long March 7 rocket was designed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation as medium sized launch vehicle able to fill the gap between larger Long March 5 and smaller Long March 6. It is based on Long March 2F with same core diameter at 3.35 m and diameter of liquid fueled boosters (2.25 m). Propulsion was changed for more environment friendly fueled with liquid oxygen and kerosene. Engines are identical as Long March 5; identical engines are used for core and of each strap-on booster. Rocket is long for 53.1 m and weighs 594000 kg with possible LEO payload capacity of 13500 kg. Four boosters, each with one YF-100, will provide additional thrust for first stage equipped with two YF-100 engines. Each engine will give 1200 kN at sea level. Second stage will be powered by four YF-115 engines with thrust at 706 kN. Both engines are modern construction by Xi’an Aerospace Propulsion Institute and were designed since early 2000s as propulsion for Long March 7 and Long March 6 rockets. Rocket is combined with YZ-1 restartable upper stage designed by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). YZ-1 is equipped with liquid fueled (UDMH/N2o4) YF-50D engine which is able to be restarted twice during operational life of 6.5 hours. Due the provided thrust of 6.5 kN YZ-1 is able to deploy satellites like Beidou in their designated orbits.
It was first launch performed from new Chinese Wenchang Satellite Launch Center placed in Hainan province. This most modern Chinese launch center is also first which is not placed on continental part of China; decision of starting building Wenchang Satellite Launch Center was approved by authorities in 2007. After seven years, space center was ready in 2014. Its location was subject of debate in China; from the one side due the low latitude (19°), rockets launched from Wenchang are able to deliver to orbit more payload. From the other side, Wenchang is placed on Hainan Island on South Chinese Sea near Vietnam. It could be easily reached by enemy forces in case of any conflict, but progressive process of stabilization in the region gave impulse for Chinese authorities to decide for starting construction. Favorable position of Wenchang will help in delivering to orbit heavy payloads helping in development of manned space program and deep space exploration with new generation of rockets like Long March 7, Long March 5 (still under development but with first flight planned for 2016).