China's launch of new carrier rockets settled

China's launch of new carrier rockets settled
Long March-5 (left) and Long March-7 (right).
PHOTO: Sina Weibo

China's new carrier rockets, Long March-5 and Long March-7, will make their maiden space flights in June and about the end of September or early October, respectively, reported on Sunday.

Long March-5 is currently being tested at a launch site in South China's Hainan Province, according to the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASC).

"The new carrier rockets are using non-toxic, pollution-free fuels," said Li Tongyu, head of the academy's aerospace department.

The country's strongest carrier rocket, Long March-5 has a payload capacity of 25 tons to low Earth orbit, or 14 tons to geostationary transfer orbit.

It is scheduled to carry the Chang'e-5 lunar probe around 2017 to finish the last chapter in China's three-step (orbiting, landing and return) moon exploration programme.

Long March-7, a medium-sized rocket using liquid propellants, will carry up to 13.5 tons to low Earth orbit or 5.5 tons to sun-synchronous orbit at a height of 700 km. It will carry cargo craft for the planned space station.

"The two carrier rockets' maiden flights will significantly boost our country's ability to enter space and help realise leapfrog development in our space transportation system," said the CASC.

Both rockets were developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology under the CASC.

According to a CASC statement, the academy will be responsible for the launch of 15 space missions this year, covering manned space projects, China's satellite navigation system and satellites for civilian and commercial uses.

A Long March-3B rocket Saturday carried a Belarusian telecom satellite into intended orbit from southwest China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center. This was China's first orbital mission of 2016 and the 223rd launch of the Long March series.

The CASC said it will publish pertinent specifications of the Long March carrier rockets online soon so that international clients interested in China's launch services can adjust their satellites to be compatible.

Saturday's mission marked the first time China had launched a satellite for a European country.

"The successful launch of the Belarusian satellite will boost the Chinese aerospace industry's global competitive power and pave the way for the export of Chinese satellites, rockets and space equipment," said Wu Yanhua, vice head of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence.

China has successfully completed 43 launch missions for more than 20 countries, regions and international satellite organisations since 1990.

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