China successfully launches two satellites today

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China today successfully used its Long March 3B rocket to place two GPS satellites in orbit.

The launch had originally been scheduled for July, but was delayed when a Long March 3B launch in June failed to place its satellite in the correct orbit.



  • LocalFluff

    I hardly know anything about Chinese rockets (because you American bloggers hardly ever write anything about them). But this 3B thing, kind of between Soyuz and Atlas V in payload capabilities, seems to have four stages, plus boosters. All but the third stage is powered by hypergolic fuel, the third stage uses LOX. Isn’t that odd? Like something overextended while under development.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Not odd if you know anything about the history of Chinese large-scale rocketry. Both the Chinese nuclear and large rocket programs were the literal brainchildren of Hsue-Shen Tsien, a Chinese national who had worked on rocketry in the U.S. and was a student of von Karman at CalTech and one of the founders of JPL. He was also among those who extensively interviewed Wernher von Braun after his surrender to American forces in 1945.

    Tsien associated closely with a number of covert communists in Pasadena during this period, some of whom were later tried and jailed for their activities. This ran him afoul of the FBI after the communist takeover of mainland China. His security clearances were revoked and he was, in essence, placed under house arrest for five years after expressing his intention to return to China. He was eventually allowed to leave.

    Once in China, Tsien quickly became founder and director of both China’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. China’s early ballistic missiles were, like the American Titan II missiles, based on hypergolic propellants for the same reason that choice was made here – and in the Soviet Union for that matter – they are storable at room temperature for long periods. Until fairly recently, all China’s space rocketry has been based on technology originally developed for its ballistic missile program.

    It has been alleged by some that Tsien took the Titan II design with him when he left for China, but his departure was in 1955, several years before the Titan II program was even begun. Tsien never worked directly on U.S. ICBM’s. Tsien’s designs used hypergolics because, in the era before large solid-fuel rocket technology reached a suitable technology readiness level, hypergolics were the best choice for large rockets that had to be dispatchable at a moment’s notice and held in readiness for long periods beforehand. Both the Soviets and the U.S. had tried kerolox ICBM’s first, but the lengthy propellant loading process made them impractical to fire on very short notice.

  • LocalFluff

    Dick Eagleson
    You should somehow compile and publish and follow your understanding of the Chinese space program. I find it hard to get to any good info about it. And it is the big thing happening up there now, next to SpaceX. Internet is always screaming for “content providers”.

    The strange thing, to me, is that the third stage (out of five) uses hydrogen and oxygen. That’s stuff that has to be fueled on the launch pad, as I understand it. Why why why build the infrastructure to do that for only one out of five rocket stages?

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