China tests parachutes to control 1st stage

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

During China’s Long March 3B launch on March 9, engineers tested the use of parachutes and “control devices” on the rocket’s first stage in order to better position the stage’s crash.

After the booster separated from the rocket, the parachutes opened in a sequence to control its attitude and direction, and data of the fall trajectory and landing site were sent to ground control in Xichang, southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

…It took just 25 minutes for staff to find the debris, compared to hours or up to a fortnight previously, [according to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT)].

The article from China’s state-run press at the link also bragged that they have been working on this new technology for a decade. That I think is a lie. The Long March 3B was developed in the 1990s and, until SpaceX successfully proved it possible to land a first stage in 2015, there was no hint they were doing anything to protect their citizens from crashing first stages.

Only in the past years have they performed any tests of such technology, including grid fins that appeared clearly stolen from SpaceX’s design. It is good that they are finally doing this, but their lack of interest in protecting their own citizens beforehand tells us quite a lot of both Chinese culture and the communist/socialist/fascist dictatorship that leads it.



  • Jhon

    Why don’t they just steal the designs from SpaceX like they do from NASA. and have controlled landings. Even of they don’t land in the bullseye, it will still only be a few feet away. I guess SpaceX’s servers are more secure than the federal government, but that would not be hard. Maybe they could get in through Hillary’s computer.

  • pzatchok

    To me this is just evidence of the Communist idea failing and they are desperately trying to shore it up with politics and not actual results. This is only for internal consumption, they know the rest of the world knows everything about Space X and Americas next big step in space.
    They are just trying to look good for their own people.
    Seriously they are boasting about finding the wreckage within hours and not days like NORMAL??!!! What? They do not have radar that can track it or helicopters to get there?
    And the USA has been dropping capsules so close to ships on re-entry that they almost hit one once. Heck we used to catch film canisters from space with flying aircraft.
    And China is proud to miss a city. After using stolen tech to get the job done.

    And as for Russia….
    They can’t even afford their own space program without the US funding them. That’s not just embarrassing but its telling about their communist system.
    Of course they will cry about Trumps declaration. They have even less chance of capitalizing on space then China does.
    All they can do is try to slow us down by using politics and propaganda.

  • Fact checker

    Grid fins were invented about 60 years ago in Russia and not by SpaceX.

  • pzatchok

    The Russians have made a few great innovations.
    I like their idea of mechanical+explosive reactive armor. Cuts penetrators in half before impact.

    They have always had one main problem. They could never economically leverage any advance they made.

  • Edward

    Fact checker wrote: “Grid fins were invented about 60 years ago in Russia and not by SpaceX.

    Perhaps, but SpaceX uses grid fins for some of its landing control, but Blue Origin uses more standard fins. When it came to choosing which company’s technology to use, China chose to use SpaceX’s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *