Tag Archives: Long March 5

China plans next Long March 5 launch for January 2019

The new colonial movement: China has begun the assembly of the third Long March 5 rocket for its next launch, now set for January 2019.

The article provides the most detailed information yet released about the failure during the rocket’s second launch:

The cause was determined to be damage to the turbopump on one of the two cryogenic YF-77 first stage engines, prompting a redesign of the structure and test-firing in Xi’an.

This is still somewhat vague, though it does confirm that the rocket engine needed a redesign.

Should this January 2019 launch go well, it will allow China to move forward on all of its ambitious space exploration plans, including the building of its own space station, numerous robotic missions to the Moon and Mars, followed eventually with manned missions to the Moon.

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Next Long March 5 launch delayed again?

There are indications in the Chinese press that suggest the next launch of China’s largest rocket, the Long March 5, will be delayed from its present November launch into 2019.

An online report by People’s Liberation Army Daily, a military newspaper, reports Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO), as saying at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday that the Long March 5B will not make its planned test launch in the first half of 2019.

“Due to the failure of the launch of the Long March 5 remote launch vehicle, the first flight of the Long March 5B carrier rocket will be postponed. The specific implementation time needs to be clarified after coordination with relevant departments,” Xiqiang said.

The November launch was to put up a test communications satellite. Should it slip into 2019, this would likely also cause delays in the launch of China’s first lunar sample return mission, Chang’e-5 (originally scheduled for 2017), the launch of China’s first Mars planetary mission in 2020, and finally the launch of the first module of China’s space station, also set for 2020.

All this once again indicates that the problems with Long March 5 were very serious, and might not yet have been addressed, even with a redesign of its engines.

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China finally reveals design issue that caused July’s Long March 5 failure

In a report released yesterday China finally revealed that a turbo pump design issue in one of Long March 5’s two first stage engines caused that rocket’s launch failure in July.

The State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), which oversees China’s space activities, released a report April 16 attributing the failure to a turbopump on one of two liquid-oxygen and hydrogen YF-77 engines powering the rocket’s first stage. The turbopump’s exhaust structure, according to SASTIND, failed while under “complex thermal conditions.”

Redesigned YF-77 engines have already been through hot fire testing at a site in a ravine near Xi’an in north China. The tests have verified the effectiveness of the measures taken, according to the report.

Unfortunately, the report is in Chinese, so I can’t read it. It does appear that the problem was a difficult one that required an engine redesign. That they have solved it is demonstrated by the release of this report. China’s space program functions like the old Soviet Union’s. Details about serious problems were only released, if at all, once the program had successfully overcome them

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China’s big space launch schedule

This Space News article does a nice job outlining the known schedule situation for China’s Long March 5 rocket. To summarize, it appears the launch schedule is roughly as follows:

November 2018: Long March 5 launches new geosynchronous communications satellite
Early 2019: Long March 5 launches Chang’e-5 to the Moon on sample return mission
June 2019: Long March 5B launches first test flight of upgraded and reusable Shenzhou manned capsule
2020: Long March 5B launches Tianhe, first module of China’s space station
Summer 2020: Long March 5 launches China’s first rover to Mars
2020 to 2022: Long March 5B launches two more modules to complete China’s space station

This schedule all hinges on the success of that first launch.

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China’s space station delayed to 2020

Because of redesign work required on its Long March 5 rocket, China revealed today that the launch of the first module, Tianhe, of their planned space station, has now been set for 2020.

Launch of Tianhe had earlier been planned for 2018, but the launch failure in July last year of the Long March 5 rocket, a heavy-lift launch vehicle required to loft the 20-tonne space station modules to low Earth orbit, meant a delayed schedule.

The next attempt at a Long March 5 launch, which will send a large telecommunications satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit, will take place from Wenchang in the second half of 2018. If that is successful, it will pave the way for a test launch of the low Earth orbit variant of the rocket, the Long March 5B, around June 2019. The follow-up flight will then launch the Tianhe module, now set to take place in 2020.

During the Soviet era, it was not unusual for the Russians to suddenly invent a new variant of a rocket or space capsule in order to provide cover for their need to redesign or fix problems. That is what I think is happening here. Until the still unexplained launch failure of Long March 5 in July 2017, I had never heard of a Long March 5B. It was the Long March 5 that was going to do all the heavy lifting.

Now we suddenly have a Long March 5B, a “low Earth orbit variant of the rocket.” I increasingly suspect that the problems with Long March 5 were so serious that they have caused a complete redesign. It was able to get its first payload into orbit, but not its second. The failure was not accompanied by any catastrophic event, which suggested, based also on later reports, that the rocket’s first stage engines simply under-performed significantly. I wonder now if what China is doing now is making that weak rocket the 5B, while they redesign the 5 so it can lift the big payloads required.

We also cannot trust them entirely with the naming they use of their rocket for each launch. The next Long March 5 launch in 2018 might actually be the 5B variant, without the name, and the so-called first test of the 5B in June 2019 might actually be the first test of the full powered 5.

Wheels within wheels!

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China test fires core engine for its Long March 5 rocket

On February 11 China did a static fire test of the core engine for its Long March 5 rocket, that country’s largest rocket that has been grounded since a launch failure in July 2017.

The YF-77 is China’s most powerful rocket engine, burning liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidiser to provide 510 kN (110,000 lbf) of thrust at sea level. A pair of these engines power the core stage of the Long March 5.

The Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket successfully debuted in late 2016 but failed to reach orbit with its second flight, in July. Following an investigation into the launch failure, it has been announced that the next launch is being planned for the second half of 2018 from the specially built Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the island province of Hainan, at 19 degrees North. No causes of the failure, which some observers pin to an underperformance of the first stage brought on by an engine issue, have been publicly revealed, and thus no indication as to whether the issue was related to design or a manufacturing problem.

The Chinese continue to be very tight-lipped about the situation with the Long March 5. This static fire test suggests however that the issue was with the core engine.

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Long March 5B delayed to 2019?

In this article touting the release of a propaganda commercial by China’s human spaceflight center, there was this short tidbit about the status of the Long March 5, grounded since a failed launch in July.

The 1.5 stage Long March 5B, designed for the task, has yet to fly. Its maiden flight was delayed by the failure last July of the 2.5 stage Long March 5, which launches missions to geosynchronous orbits as well as lunar and interplanetary missions.

Should a return-to-flight of the Long March 5 late this year be successful, the Long March 5B will debut in 2019 before then launching the Tianhe core module from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre.

This quote illustrates the techniques used by a secretive Soviet style nation that wishes to hide its problems. Until July 2017, when the Long March 5 failed on its second flight, there was never anything called the Long March 5B. Long March 5 was the rocket that was going to launch China’s space station modules. Now that it appears that significant changes to the rocket are required to fix it, suddenly the Long March 5B is described as the rocket that was “designed for the task” of launching the space station, not Long March 5. Long March 5 was only a first version, and the real rocket that will launch the station will debut in 2019.

“Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.”

Meanwhile, the propaganda commercial being touted, supposedly releasing never-before seen video showing astronaut training, is almost entirely made-up of staged footage, very carefully and dramatically lit. I would guess that it contains less than 15 seconds of live documentary footage, out of the 3:44 minute film.

None of this criticism here is aimed at the Chinese engineering. In fact, it is a good thing that they have recognized the problems with Long March 5 and are fixing them. It is also a good thing that they remain determined to continue their space program. I just think it necessary for everyone to recognize propaganda when they see it. When you do, you find out that the real story here is that they appear to be delaying somewhat the launch of their space station because of the delays necessary to fix Long March 5.

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ESA to lead international effort to track falling Chinese space station

The European Space Agency has taken the lead position in an international effort to track China’s falling Tiangong-1 test space station module.

The goal of the effort is to improve the accuracy of predicting the fall of such objects. Tiangong-1, at 8.5 tons, is big enough for some pieces to survive re-entry and crash to the ground. Improving the predictions of where it will fall will reduce the chances of the debris causing harm.

I first read of this effort from this news story, which contained in its last sentence one piece of interesting news having nothing to do with Tiangong-1:

The next such launch [of a Chinese space station module] will be of the Tianhe core module around 2019 on a new Long March 5B rocket, the country’s largest and most powerful so far. [emphasis mine]

It appears China has quietly renamed its big Long March 5 rocket, adding a “B” to the name. This name change strongly indicates what I have suspected for months, that the July launch failure has required China to significantly redesign the rocket. Apparently, the poor performance of the rocket’s first stage engines was caused by fundamental design problems.

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China says Long March 5 will resume launches in 2018

The new colonial movement: Though the details are vague, a Chinese official said earlier this week that they now expect to resume launches of their Long March 5 rocket in 2018.

The article says that the July launch failure of the second Long March 5 was due to “a manufacturing defect affecting one of two YF-77 engines powering the first stage. If officially confirmed, this would mean no major effects such as redesign are required, meaning a relatively swift return to flight.”

The long delay since July however suggests to me that the defect was more serious, and has either required that redesign or a complete recall of all YF-77 engines.

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Cause of Long March 5 July failure is in “first-stage propulsion”

In an interview earlier this week a Chinese official revealed that the problem during the July Long March 5 launch was related to an issue with “first-stage propulsion.”

The official only added that the investigation is “on-going” and that they intend to fix the problem because the Long March 5 is needed for China’s human and deep space programs.

The vagueness here suggests to me the possibility of some very fundamental problems that might be requiring a major redesign. That is a pure guess, however, and should not be taken very seriously.

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China successfully launches three satellites

China today ended a long pause in launches since the failure of its Long March 5 rocket in July and placed in orbit three military satellites using a smaller rocket not used since 2004.

The use of such a rocket is most intriguing. Meanwhile, no word yet on when launches will resume on their other more up-to-date rockets, including their new and most powerful Long March 5.

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Long March 5 failure to delay Chinese lunar probes and space station

The July launch failure of China’s largest rocket, Long March 5, is going to cause delays to both its lunar and space station programs.

They have not yet finished their investigation into the failure, and are now admitting that the launch of Chang’e-5, a lunar sample return mission, will not occur this year as planned, and that the launch of their space station core module will be delayed into 2019.

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China successfully completes third robotic docking

China’s Tianzhou-1 test cargo freighter successfully completed its third docking with the prototype test space station module Tiangong-2 today.

Commands for the rendezvous and docking were issued at 17:24 Beijing time, according to the China Manned Space Agency, with the new ‘fast’ process taking 6.5 hours to complete.

Previously the rendezvous and docking process took around two days, or 30 orbits. The breakthrough will be used to allow crewed Shenzhou craft to reach the future Chinese Space Station (CSS) much sooner after launch.

Tianzhou-1 will soon perform a third and final refuelling test with Tiangong-2, before the cargo spacecraft is carefully deorbited over the South Pacific.

No word yet on when China might resume launches however. Since the July launch failure of their largest rocket, Long March 5, the country has launched nothing. There have also been stories that suggest the planned December launch of their Chang’e 5 lunar mission will be delayed now until the spring.

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Long March 5 failure occurred at satellite separation

This story notes that the failure of the Long March 5 launch occurred 30 minutes after launch, when the second stage and the satellite were due to separate.

The link also includes footage of the launch through first stage separation and ignition of second stage engines.

It appears therefore that the failure was not in the Long March 5 rocket itself. When satellite separation occurs the second stage has completed its work, so the rocket apparently did its job getting the satellite into orbit. What happened next however remains unknown.

Based on this information it would appear that this failure might not delay later launches of the Long March 5 that much.

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China’s second launch of its Long March 5 rocket fails

The new colonial movement: China has announced that the second launch of its Long March 5 rocket was a failure.

They have provided no other details. Since this is the rocket that they plan to use to launch their space station modules as well as launch this year’s unmanned lunar mission, this failure is probably going to impact those schedules.

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China’s new big rocket set for launch Thursday

The competition heats up: The first launch of China’s new big rocket, Long March 5, is now scheduled for Thursday morning at 10 universal time, 5:30 am Eastern.

The Long March 5 is comparable to the most powerful active rockets in the world such as the Delta-IV Heavy, Atlas V and Ariane 5, and will launch the technology experiment satellite Shijian-17 high into to geosynchronous. At more than 800 tonnes, 53 metres in height and with a 5 metre diameter core, the Long March 5 has been designed to launch the 20-tonne modules of China’s planned space station into low Earth orbit, starting with the core module in 2018.

The countdown and fueling have begun.

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First Long March 5 begins assembly

The competition heats up: China has begun assembly of its first Long March 5 rocket, set for launch in September.

Yang Hujun, vice chief engineer, has spoken about the next steps for the Long March-5 project. “After the assembly is finished in the first half of this year, it will take a little more than a month to test it to ensure that the product is in good shape. The first launch will be made after it is out of the plant in the latter half of the year. “

The rocket will be able to put about 25 tons into orbit, making it one of the most powerful rockets in the world. They plan to use it on its first launch to put their next space station into orbit.

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China to launch full space station in 2018

The competition heats up: China has announced that it will launch the first module of its full space station, named Tianhe-1, in 2018.

The article also gives an short summary of China’s space plans in 2016:

2016 will also be a busy and crucial year for China. Assembly of its second space lab, Tiangong-2, has been completed and the space station prototype will launch in September. This is set to be followed a month later by the Shenzhou-11 crewed mission with two Chinese astronauts. It will also debut new launch vehicles, the Long March 5 and 7, which will greatly increase the country’s launch capabilities.

Long March 5 is capable of putting 25 tons in orbit, making it comparable to Boeing’s Delta 4 Heavy, the most powerful rocket presently operational.

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China to launch new rocket today

The competition heats up: With the expected first launch of China’s new Long March 6 rocket today, this report nicely outlines the status of the country’s rocket program.

Like Russia’s Angara and SpaceX’s Falcon, the new generation of Long March rockets are modular and use the same rocket engine. This has reduced cost and allows for faster assembly. The launch today is the maiden flight of the smaller member of this family. The key launch will be that of the larger Long March 5, scheduled for next year. Capable of putting 25 tons in orbit (five more than Proton), this is the rocket they plan to use to launch the modules for their full-sized space station.

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China’s new spaceport and the giant rocket it is being built for.

The competition heats up: China’s new spaceport and the giant rocket it is being built for.

The combination of the planned rocket, called the Long March 5 — and its derivatives — matched with the Wenchang Launch Center, China’s new sprawling spaceport, underscores the country’s shifting space gears. It enables China’s space station ambitions, while also boosting the nation’s plans for interplanetary exploration, as well as accomplishing human treks to the moon.

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