Long March 3B


Long March 3B
FunctionLaunch vehicle
ManufacturerChina Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT)
Country of originChina
Cost per launchMore than US$70 million (compare Long march 3A cost) [1]
  • 3B: 54.8 m (180 ft) [1]
  • 3B/E: 56.3 m (185 ft) [2]
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft) [1]
  • 3B: 425,800 kg (938,700 lb)
  • 3B/E: 458,970 kg (1,011,860 lb) [2]
Stages3 / 4
Payload to LEO
Mass11,500 kg (25,400 lb) [3][4]
Payload to SSO
Mass7,100 kg (15,700 lb) [3][4]
Payload to GTO
  • 3B: 5,100 kg (11,200 lb) [3][4]
  • 3B/E: 5,500 kg (12,100 lb) [2]
Payload to GEO
Mass2,000 kg (4,400 lb) [4]
Payload to HCO
Mass3,300 kg (7,300 lb) [3][4]
Associated rockets
FamilyLong March
DerivativesLong March 3C
Launch history
  • 3B: Retired
  • 3B/E: Active
Launch sitesXichang LC-2, LC-3
Total launches
  • 70
    • 3B: 12
    • 3B/E: 58
  • 66
    • 3B: 10
    • 3B/E: 56
Partial failure(s)
  • 2
  • 3B: 1 (Palapa-D)
  • 3B/E: 1 (Chinasat 9A)
First flight
Last flight
Boosters (3B)
No. boosters4
Length15.33 m (50.3 ft)
Diameter2.25 m (7 ft 5 in)
Propellant mass37,700 kg (83,100 lb)
Engines1 × YF-25
Thrust740.4 kN (166,400 lbf)
Specific impulse2,556.2 m/s (260.66 s)
Burn time127 seconds
FuelN2O4 / UDMH
Boosters (3B/E)
No. boosters4
Length16.1 m (53 ft)
Diameter2.25 m (7 ft 5 in)
Propellant mass41,100 kg (90,600 lb)
Engines1 × YF-25
Thrust740.4 kN (166,400 lbf)
Specific impulse2,556.2 m/s (260.66 s)
Burn time140 seconds
FuelN2O4 / UDMH
First stage (3B)
Length23.27 m (76.3 ft)
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Propellant mass171,800 kg (378,800 lb)
Engines4 × YF-21C
Thrust2,961.6 kN (665,800 lbf)
Specific impulse2,556.5 m/s (260.69 s)
Burn time145 seconds
FuelN2O4 / UDMH
First stage (3B/E)
Length24.76 m (81.2 ft)
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Propellant mass186,200 kg (410,500 lb)
Engines4 × YF-21C
Thrust2,961.6 kN (665,800 lbf)
Specific impulse2,556.5 m/s (260.69 s)
Burn time158 seconds
FuelN2O4 / UDMH
Second stage
Length12.92 m (42.4 ft)
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Propellant mass49,400 kg (108,900 lb)
  • 742 kN (167,000 lbf) (Main)
  • 47.1 kN (10,600 lbf) (Vernier)
Specific impulse
  • 2,922.57 m/s (9,588.5 ft/s) (Main)
  • 2,910.5 m/s (9,549 ft/s) (Vernier)
Burn time185 seconds
FuelN2O4 / UDMH
Third stage
Length12.38 m (40.6 ft)
Diameter3.0 m (9.8 ft)
Propellant mass18,200 kg (40,100 lb)
Engines2 × YF-75
Thrust167.17 kN (37,580 lbf)
Specific impulse4,295 m/s (438.0 s)
Burn time478 seconds
FuelLH2 / LOX
Fourth stage (optional) – YZ-1
Engines1 × YF-50D
Thrust6.5 kN (1,500 lbf)
Specific impulse315.5 s (3.094 km/s)
FuelN2O4 / UDMH

The Long March 3B (Chinese: 长征三号乙火箭, Chang Zheng 3B), also known as the CZ-3B and LM-3B, is a Chinese orbital launch vehicle. Introduced in 1996, it is launched from Launch Area 2 and 3 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan. A three-stage rocket with four strap-on liquid rocket boosters, it is currently the second most powerful member of the Long March rocket family after the Long March 5 and the heaviest of the Long March 3 rocket family, and is mainly used to place communications satellites into geosynchronous orbits.

An enhanced version, the Long March 3B/E or G2, was introduced in 2007 to increase the rocket's geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) cargo capacity and lift heavier geosynchronous orbit (GEO) communications satellites. The Long March 3B also served as the basis for the medium-capacity Long March 3C, which was first launched in 2008.

As of 11 October 2020, the Long March 3B and 3B/E have conducted 66 successful launches, plus two failures and two partial failures, giving them a success rate of 94.3%.


A diagram of the Long March 3B, showing its outboard liquid rocket boosters.

The development of the Long March 3B began in 1986 to meet the needs of the international GEO communications satellite market. During its maiden flight, on 14 February 1996 carrying the Intelsat 708 satellite, the rocket suffered a guidance failure two seconds into the flight and destroyed a nearby town, killing at least six people,[5] but outside estimates suggest that anywhere between 200 and 500 people might have been killed.[6] However, the author of the report[6] later ruled out large casualties, because evidence suggest that the crash site was evacuated before the launch.[7]

The Long March 3B and 3B/E rockets conducted ten successful launches between 1997 and 2008.[2]

In 1997, the Agila 2 satellite was forced to use onboard propellant to reach its correct orbit because of poor injection accuracy on the part of its Long March 3B launch vehicle.[8] In 2009, a Long March 3B partially failed during launch due to a third stage anomaly, which resulted in the Palapa-D satellite reaching a lower orbit than planned.[9] Nonetheless, the satellite was able to maneuver itself into the planned orbit. The Long March 3B and its variants remain in active use as of March 2020, having conducted a total of 26 consecutive successful launches, since 19 June 2017 until now.

In December 2013, a Long March 3B/E successfully lifted Chang'e 3, China's first Lunar lander and rover into the projected lunar-transfer orbit.

In April 2020, the third stage of the Long March 3B/E failed during a Palapa-N1 communications satellite mission; this was the first total failure of the Long March 3B/E.[10]

Design and variants

The Long March 3B is based on the Long March 3A as its core stage, with four liquid boosters strapped on the first stage. It has an Low Earth orbit (LEO) cargo capacity of 11,200 kg (24,700 lb) and a GTO capacity is 5,100 kg (11,200 lb).

Long March 3B/E

The Long March 3B/E, also known as 3B/G2, is an enhanced variant of the Long March 3B, featuring an enlarged first stage and boosters, increasing its GTO payload capacity to 5,500 kg (12,100 lb).[11] Its maiden flight took place on 13 May 2007, when it successfully launched Nigeria's NigComSat-1, the first African geosynchronous communications satellite. In 2013, it successfully launched China's first lunar lander Chang'e 3 and lunar rover Yutu.

Since 2015, the Long March 3B and 3C can optionally accommodate a YZ-1 upper stage, which has been used to carry dual launches or BeiDou navigation satellites into medium Earth orbit (MEO).

Long March 3C

A modified version of the Long March 3B, the Long March 3C, was developed in the mid-1990s to bridge the gap in payload capacity between the Long March 3B and 3A. It is almost identical to the Long March 3B, but has two boosters instead of four, giving it a reduced GTO payload capacity of 3,800 kg (8,400 lb). Its maiden launch took place on 25 April 2008.

List of launches

Flight number Date (UTC) Launch site Version Payload Orbit Result
1 14 February 1996
XSLC, LA-2 3B Intelsat 708 GTO Failure
2 19 August 1997
XSLC, LA-2 3B Agila-2 GTO Success
3 16 October 1997
XSLC, LA-2 3B APStar 2R GTO Success
4 30 May 1998
XSLC, LA-2 3B Chinastar 1 GTO Success
5 18 July 1998
XSLC, LA-2 3B SinoSat 1 GTO Success
6 12 April 2005
XSLC, LA-2 3B APStar 6 GTO Success
7 28 October 2006
XSLC, LA-2 3B SinoSat 2 GTO Success
8 13 May 2007
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E NigComSat-1 GTO Success
9 5 July 2007
XSLC, LA-2 3B ChinaSat 6B GTO Success
10 9 June 2008
XSLC, LA-2 3B ChinaSat 9 GTO Success
11 29 October 2008
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Venesat-1 GTO Success
12 31 August 2009
XSLC, LA-2 3B Palapa-D GTO Partial failure
13 4 September 2010
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E SinoSat 6 GTO Success
14 20 June 2011
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 10 GTO Success
15 11 August 2011
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Paksat-1R GTO Success
16 18 September 2011
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 1A GTO Success
17 7 October 2011
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Eutelsat W3C GTO Success
18 19 December 2011
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E NigComSat-1R GTO Success
19 31 March 2012
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E APStar 7 GTO Success
20 29 April 2012
XSLC, LA-2 3B Compass-M3
MEO Success
21 26 May 2012
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 2A GTO Success
22 18 September 2012
XSLC, LA-2 3B Compass-M5
MEO Success
23 27 November 2012
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 12 GTO Success
24 1 May 2013
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 11 GTO Success
25 1 December 2013
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Chang'e 3 TLI Success
26 20 December 2013
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Túpac Katari 1 GTO Success
27 25 July 2015
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou M1-S
BeiDou M2-S
MEO Success
28 12 September 2015
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E TJSW-1 GTO Success
29 29 September 2015
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E BeiDou I2-S GTO Success
30 16 October 2015
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E APStar 9 GTO Success
31 3 November 2015
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E ChinaSat 2C GTO Success
32 20 November 2015
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E LaoSat-1 GTO Success
33 9 December 2015
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E ChinaSat 1C GTO Success
34 28 December 2015
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Gaofen 4 GTO Success
35 15 January 2016
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E Belintersat-1 GTO Success
36 5 August 2016
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E Tiantong-1-01 GTO Success
37 10 December 2016
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E Fengyun-4A GTO Success
38 5 January 2017
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E TJSW-2 GTO Success
39 12 April 2017
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Shijian 13 GTO Success
40 19 June 2017
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Chinasat 9A GTO Partial failure
41 5 November 2017
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M1
BeiDou-3 M2
MEO Success
42 10 December 2017
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Alcomsat-1 GTO Success
43 11 January 2018
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M7
BeiDou-3 M8
MEO Success
44 12 February 2018
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M3
BeiDou-3 M4
MEO Success
45 29 March 2018
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M9
BeiDou-3 M10
MEO Success
46 3 May 2018
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Apstar 6C GTO Success
47 29 July 2018
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M5
BeiDou-3 M6
MEO Success
48 24 August 2018
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M11
BeiDou-3 M12
MEO Success
49 19 September 2018
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M13
BeiDou-3 M14
MEO Success
50 15 October 2018
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M15
BeiDou-3 M16
MEO Success
51 1 November 2018
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E BeiDou-3 G1 GTO Success
52 18 November 2018
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M17
BeiDou-3 M18
MEO Success
53 7 December 2018
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Chang'e 4 TLI Success
54 10 January 2019
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 2D GTO Success
55 9 March 2019
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E ChinaSat 6C GTO Success
56 31 March 2019
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Tianlian 2-01 GTO Success
57 20 April 2019
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E BeiDou-3 I1 GTO Success
58 24 June 24, 2019
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E BeiDou-3 I2 GTO Success
59 19 August 2019
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 18 GTO Success
60 22 September 2019
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M23
BeiDou-3 M24
MEO Success
61 17 October 2019
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E TJSW-4 GTO Success
62 4 November 2019
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E BeiDou-3 I3 GTO Success
63 23 November 2019
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M21
BeiDou-3 M22
MEO Success
64 16 December 2019
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M19
BeiDou-3 M20
MEO Success
65 7 January 2020
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E TJSW-5 GTO Success
66 9 March 2020
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E BeiDou-3 G2 GTO Success
67 9 April 2020
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Palapa-N1 (Nusantara Dua) GTO Failure[12]
68 23 June 2020
01:43 [13]
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E BeiDou-3 G3 GTO Success
69 9 July 2020
12:11 [14]
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Apstar 6D GTO Success
70 11 October 2020
16:57 [15]
XSLC, LA-2 3B Gaofen-13 GTO Success

Flight mishaps

Intelsat 708 launch failure

On 14 February 1996, the launch of the first Long March 3B with Intelsat 708 failed just after liftoff when the launch vehicle veered off course and exploded when it hit the ground at T+23 seconds. One person on the ground was killed by the explosion (the total number of casualties is unknown). The cause of the accident was traced to short-circuiting of the vehicle's guidance platform at liftoff.[16] The number of casualties is debated and unclear even decades after the accident. The Chinese official death toll is usually of the order of few casualties, whereas some estimates place the number of people dead to a few hundred (see Intelsat 708).

The participation of Space Systems/Loral in the accident investigation caused great political controversy in the United States since the information provided during the accident investigation would help China improve its rockets and ballistic missiles. The U.S. Congress reclassified satellite technology as a munition and placed it back under the restrictive International Traffic in Arms Regulations in 1998.[17] No license to launch United States spacecraft on Chinese rockets has been approved by the U.S. State Department since then, and an official at the Bureau of Industry and Security emphasized in 2016 that "no U.S.-origin content, regardless of significance, regardless of whether it's incorporated into a foreign-made item, can go to China".[18]

Palapa-D partial launch failure

On 31 August 2009, during the launch of Palapa-D, the third stage engine under-performed and placed the satellite into a lower than planned orbit. The satellite was able to make up the performance shortfall using its own engine and reach geosynchronous orbit, but with its lifetime shortened to 10.5 years from the originally projected 15-16 years. The investigation found that the failure was due to burn-through of the engine's gas generator, and that "the most likely cause of the burn-through was a foreign matter or humidity-caused icing in the engine's liquid-hydrogen injectors".[19]

ChinaSat-9A partial launch failure

On 19 June 2017, a Long March 3B/E mission carrying ChinaSat-9A ended in partial failure. Officials did not release details regarding the status of the mission for at least 4 hours after liftoff.[20] Two weeks later, on 7 July 2017, officials confirmed that the mission had been anomalous, with Space Daily reporting that "an anomaly was found on the carrier rocket's rolling control thruster, part of the attitude control engine, during the third gliding phase". The failure in the rocket's third stage left the payload in a lower than intended orbit, and the payload was forced to spend two weeks reaching its intended orbit under its own power.[21]

Palapa-N1 (Nusantara Dua) launch failure

On 9 April 2020, a Long March 3B launcher failed after lifting off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern Sichuan province at 11:46 UTC during the launch of an Indonesian communications satellite, Palapa-N1 (Nusantara Dua) of a mass of 5500 kg and was expected to enter service in geostationary orbit at 113.0° East, replacing the Palapa-D satellite. But one of the two YF-75 third stage engines appeared failed to ignite, preventing the Palapa-N1 (Nusantara Dua) satellite to reach orbit.[22] Wreckage from the third stage and the Palapa-N1 spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere, leading to sightings of fiery debris in the skies over Guam. With the Long March 3B failure, Chinese rockets have faltered on two missions in less than a month. A Long March 7A rocket failed to place a satellite in orbit on 16 March 2020 after taking off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on Hainan Island, located in southern China.[23] After two Chinese launch failures in less than a month, further Chinese launches will be likely delayed until it is sure that the quality control is satisfactory.[24]

Controversy launch failures

There have been many confirmed reports and videos of boosters that have been jettisoned and landed in small villages in China. These boosters being hypergolic and highly toxic, there has been large amounts of controversy regarding photos taken of the staged boosters on fire and with civilians standing nearby. These photos ultimately led to the ethical aspect of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) to be questioned. Debris from the Long March 3B rocket ends up crashing into villages because unlike launchpads for other space agencies which are usually by the coastline, China's main launch pads are inland.[25]


  1. ^ a b Mark Wade. "CZ-3B". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Archived from the original on 19 March 2008. Retrieved 26 April 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d "LM-3B". China Great Wall Industry Corporation. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d "LM-3A Series Launch Vehicle User's Manual - Issue 2011" (PDF). China Great Wall Industries Corporation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 July 2015. Retrieved 9 August 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e Gunter Krebs. "CZ-3B (Chang Zheng-3B)". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 26 April 2008.
  5. ^ Select Committee of the United States House of Representatives (3 January 1999). "Satellite Launches in the PRC: Loral". U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China. Retrieved 23 May 2012. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ a b Lan, Chen. "Mist around the CZ-3B disaster". The Space Review. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  7. ^ Lan, Chen. "Mist around the CZ-3B disaster (part 2)". The Space Review. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  8. ^ International reference guide to space launch systems. Fourth edition. p. 243. ISBN 1-56347-591-X
  9. ^ ""帕拉帕-D"通信卫星未能进入预定轨道". Xinhuanet. 31 August 2009. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  10. ^ Barbosa, Rui C. (9 April 2020). "Long March 3B fails during Indonesian satellite launch". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
  11. ^ "LM-3B". China Great Wall Industry Corporation. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  12. ^ Jing, Zhan (9 April 2020). "PALAPA-N1卫星发射失利". Xinhuanet.
  13. ^ "Launch Schedule". Spaceflight Now. 22 June 2020. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  14. ^ "High-throughput communications satellite launched from China". Spaceflight Now. 9 July 2020. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  15. ^ "China launches Gaofen-13 observation satellite towards geostationary orbit". SpaceNews. 11 October 2020. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  16. ^ "Satellite Launches in the PRC: Loral". CNN. 25 May 1999. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  17. ^ Zelnio, Ryan (9 January 2006). "A short history of export control policy". The Space Review.
  18. ^ de Selding, Peter B. (14 April 2016). "U.S. ITAR satellite export regime's effects still strong in Europe". SpaceNews.
  19. ^ de Selding, Peter B. (19 November 2009). "Burn-through Blamed in China Long March Mishap". SpaceNews. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  20. ^ http://spaceflight101.com/long-march-3b-zhongxing-9a-launch/
  21. ^ "Chinese satellite Zhongxing-9A". Space Daily.
  22. ^ https://kumparan.com/kumparantech/satelit-nusantara-dua-gagal-mengorbit-siaran-tv-dan-radio-terancam-bermasalah-1tCCDi3iDLY
  23. ^ https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/04/09/chinese-rocket-fails-during-launch-of-indonesian-communications-satellite/ - 9 April 2020
  24. ^ https://www.seradata.com/china-loses-another-long-march-3b-launch-fails-and-palapa-n1-falls-into-drink/
  25. ^ Li, Michael Sheetz,Yun (26 November 2019). "'Adjust your location quickly' — How China warns residents before rockets crash down from space". cnbc.com. Retrieved 4 August 2020.

External links

  • LM-3B User's Manual at GlobalSecurity.org
  • Long March-3B (LM-3B) at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology