China launches its most powerful rocker carrier; 10 years of hard work pays off for Dragon

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May 6, 2020 2:42 PM

CALT head Wang Xiaojun said the new rocket, a version of China's largest carrier rocket, the Long March-5, would further expand China's aerospace activities. The Long March-5B is about 53.7 meters long, with a core stage 5 meters in diameter and four boosters 3.35 meters in diameter.

The Long March-5B has one less core stage compared to the Long March-5.

Long March-5B, China’s most powerful carrier rocket, made its maiden flight on May 5, successfully sending the trial version of the country’s next-generation manned spacecraft and a cargo return capsule for space testing, state media announced. At 6 pm on the coast of southern China’s island province of Hainan, the white large rocket blasted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre. (Beijing Time), announced by state-run news agency Xinhua, citing China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

The experimental manned spacecraft without crew, along with the test version of the cargo return capsule, separated with the rocket about 488 seconds later and reached the intended orbit. The successful flight opens the “third phase” of China’s manned space program, which is to construct a space station, the CMSA said.

Specially designed for China’s manned space program, Long March-5B will be used primarily to launch the space station modules, it said. The building of China’s space station is moving a step forward, a senior space official said, with the successful maiden flight of its latest large carrier rocket.

Wang Jue, chief director of the rocket engineering team at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, said that the Long March-5B was specially designed to launch the space station modules.

CALT head Wang Xiaojun said the new rocket, a version of China’s largest carrier rocket, the Long March-5, would further expand China’s aerospace activities. The Long March-5B is about 53.7 meters long, with a core stage 5 meters in diameter and four boosters 3.35 meters in diameter.

The Long March-5B has one less core stage compared to the Long March-5, but a larger fairing, which is 20.5 meters long and 5.2 meters in diameter, as high as a six-story house, and almost eight meters longer than the Long March-5 fairing. The Long March-5 rocket will be used mainly for the launch of massive satellites to high-earth orbit and deep-space missions such as the Chang’e-5 lunar explorer and the Mars rover. According to CALT, the Long March-5B rocket would also carry capsules from China’s space station and large spacecraft to low-Earth orbit.

The Long March-5B rocket has enhanced China’s low-Earth orbit payload capacity to 22 tons which equals the carrying capacity of the world’s leading launch vehicles from the earlier value of about 14 tons, the Xinhua study said.

Despite China’s current carrier rockets providing the highest payload size, the Long March-5B allows the launch of large spacecraft. For example, each module of China’s space station would be more than 20 tonnes, and the new rocket will only take it into space.

The development team spent nearly 10 years designing the new rocket, making breakthroughs in a number of main innovations, chief designer Li Dong said of the rocket.

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