China’s Way To Space

The Long March is the general name for the family of expendable Chinese rockets used for space launches. The rockets got their name from the Long March which the Communist forces undertook in the mid-1930’s.


Fast Summary Fact About China’s Long March Rockets

There are around a dozen variants of the Long March rockets as improved models have been developed and put into service. Currently, the largest rocket in the family, Long March 5, can launch a max payload to low Earth orbit of 25 tonnes or 14,000 kg to geostationary transfer orbit.

China became the 5th nation to independently launch a satellite into Earth’s orbit on its Long March rocket in 1970. It hasn’t been all plain sailing though, as during the Launch of a Long March 2E rocket in February 1996, a failure caused the rocket to dramatically veer off course (as it cleared the tower) and fly horizontally towards a nearby village. State media reported only 6 deaths, but it is widely believed the death toll must have been a lot higher.

Following this disaster in 1996, the Long March rockets experienced 13 years, and 75 consecutive successful launches, achieving a number of important milestones of China’s impressive space history;

  • In 2003 a Long March rocket successfully launched China’s first man into orbit aboard the Shenzhou 5. This made China the third country to launch a person into Space, 42 years after the Soviets and Americans.
  • In October 2005 a Long March 2F rocket successfully put two taikonauts aboard the Shenzhou 6 into orbit.
  • Another milestone in China’s space exploration was reached made in October 2007 when their "Chang'e 1" spacecraft entered lunar orbit.
  • China has launched and operated a small space station and in 2008 launched the Shenzhou 7 which became China's first three-man mission including the important step of completing a successful spacewalk (EVA).
  • As of October 2017, there have been 252 Long March launches.

These steps are important towards China’s stated ambition of sending men to the Moon. As part of this, planning and testing are underway to develop the Long March 9 which is expected to be a Chinese super-heavy lift rocket similar to the Saturn V, Space Launch System, Falcon Heavy and failed Soviet N1. The payload would be in the order of 150 tonnes to low Earth orbit or 50 tonnes to lunar orbit with an expected first launch in 2028.

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