China’s Long March to the Stars Continues

Long March 7 rocket launches on maiden voyage from China’s new Wenchang Space Launch Center 

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Space news (Chinese space program: new launch systems; Long March 7 (LM-7) rocket) – 12:00 UTC, Wenchang Space Launch Center, Hainan Island, China – 

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China’s next-generation medium-lift orbital launch vehicle the Chang Zheng-7 (CZ-7) lifted slowly from Launch Complex LC101 of China’s new Wenchang Space Launch Center at 12:00 UTC (5:00 PST) on June 25, 2016. On the maiden voyage of China’s new Long March 7 (LM-7) rocket to test its flight capabilities in anticipation of achieving operational status and eventually qualifying for unmanned and manned space missions in the future.

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Carrying a smaller, scaled-down prototype of their next generation crew capsule (NGCV) that was successfully recovered later in Inner Mongolia, the LM-7 test flight went off without a hitch. China’s new launch vehicle was developed by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) to replace the aging LM-2, LM-3, and LM-4 hypergolic launch vehicles in the future. It will also be used to lift their new Tianzhou cargo vehicle into orbit for the Tiangong-2 program, along with modules for the Tiangong space station in a few years. 

The new LM-7 is powered by the YF-100, a two-stage combustion cycle engine developed at China’s Academy of Aerospace Liquid Propulsion Technology, and certified for use by the State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defence. The first stage uses two engines and strap-on boosters each with a single engine. The second stage utilizes a YF-115 with four engines. China’s new medium-lift orbital launch vehicle operates on liquid oxygen and kerosene, capable of a lift-off thrust of 7,200 kN, and carrying around 13,500 kg 400 km, or 5,500 kg 700 km, above the surface of the Earth.

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Located in the northeast corner of the island of Hainan on the southern coast of China, a place on the Earth closer to the equator than their three other launch complexes, vehicles launched from China’s new Wenchang Space Launch Center benefit from the increased rotational speed of the planet at this location as compared to the other three sites. It reduces the amount of fuel required for the launch vehicle to maneuver from transit orbit to GEO. It should also avoid the possibility of rocket debris falling into populated areas since the launch vehicle can be directed toward the southeast and into the expansive South Pacific. 

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China’s next generation crew vehicle (NGCV) the Shenzhou manned space capsule’s based on the proven Russian Soyuz design. China expects to implement their new crew vehicle during the launch and construction of the Tiangong-2 space station near the end of 2016. They’ll also use it during the orbital construction of the modular Tiangong space station currently scheduled for the beginning of 2018. China’s in the development of new next generation manned space capsules to enable future and more ambitious space missions to the Moon and even manned missions to the Red Planet. 

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China’s heading to the stars

They expect to use their future space capsules to ferry material and astronauts to and from space stations in the LEO, to send explorers to the Moon, near-Earth asteroids, and possibly Mars once they’re ready. Capable of carrying 2 to 6 astronauts, it will have two versions, a 14-ton version for traveling to LEO, near-Earth asteroids, and Mars, and a 20-ton model for lunar missions. Designed and engineered to spend up to 21 days in independent orbit or two years if docked at a space station, China’s next generation space capsule (NGCV)’s a versatile beast fitted with two different service modules, each with a different propulsion system. A beast expected to take China’s astronauts and dreams of exploring the solar system to Mars and beyond during the decades ahead for their space program.  

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Explore the launch vehicles designed and built by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.

Learn more about China’s Academy of Aerospace Liquid Propulsion Technology here

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