Wednesday, August 19, 2015

China Successfully Tests the Power System of its Long March 5 Rocket

China successfully conducted an engine ignition test on Monday, Aug. 17, for the second stage of its homegrown Long March 5 rocket. Credit: CCTV

China successfully conducted an engine ignition test on Monday, Aug. 17, for the second stage of its homegrown Long March 5 rocket. Using non-toxic and non-polluting liquefied propellant, the engines of the rocket were fired on the ground. 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 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 tons to the low Earth orbit (LEO) and 14 tons to the geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

"The capacity of the Long March 5 is twice as the current capacity of our launchers. It reaches 25 tons to the low Earth orbit and 14 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 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 revealed.

The Long March 5 rocket will include three primary modular core stages, 17 ft. in diameter. The total length of the rocket will be 199 ft. and it will weigh 643 tons at launch.

China’s largest-ever rocket will also help make space exploration cheaper. Its size will 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.

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