China successfully tests power system of Long March 5 rocket
China successfully conducted an engine ignition test on Monday, Aug. 17, for the second stage of its home-grown Long March 5 rocket. The engines of the rocket were test-fired on the ground using non-toxic and non-polluting liquefied propellant. The test marks the completion of the ground testing for the launch vehicle and ends its manufacturing phase.
The Long March 5 rocket, expected to be launched in 2016, is under development by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). The rocket is a Chinese next-generation heavy lift launch system, with a maximum payload capacity of 25 metric tons to low-Earth orbit (LEO) and 14 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).
“The capacity of the Long March 5 is twice as the current capacity of our launchers. It reaches 25 [metric] tons to the low Earth orbit and 14 [metric] tons to the geostationary transfer orbit,” said Lou Luliang, deputy chief designer of the Long March 5 rocket at CALT.
That capacity is the key to China’s manned space station development. The country is stepping up efforts on its manned space program, and its ambitious plans include a permanent space station, manned lunar missions, and a possible manned mission to Mars. The new booster rocket will help to achieve these goals.
The rocket is slated to launch the Chang’e 5 lunar sample return mission in 2017 and three modules of the Tiangong space station: Tianhe, Wentian, and Xuntian.
“The Long March 5 is the country’s new generation of carrier rocket. The aim of its design is heavy thrust, zero toxin and pollution. It will serve to the country’s follow-up space projects, such as the Lunar Exploration program, the manned space station, as well as the survey of deep space in the future,” Luliang said.
The Long March 5 rocket will include three primary modular core stages, 17 ft. (5.2 m) in diameter. The total length of the rocket will be 199 ft. (60.5 m) and it will weigh 643 metric tons at launch.
China’s largest-ever rocket could also help make space exploration cheaper. Its size should allow the new rocket to send both cargo spacecraft and satellites into space at the same time.
“Our objective for the new carrier rocket is to reduce 20 to 30 percent the cost of sending a spacecraft into outer space,” said Yang Hujun, associate engineer of Long March 5 at CALT.
The rocket will be now shipped to the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island, China, where it will be launched for the first time.
The Long March 5 project started in February 2001. The engine development for the spacecraft began one year earlier, with testing directed by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) commencing in 2005. Versions of both new engines: YF-100 and YF-77 had been successfully tested by mid-2007.
Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.