Long March 5

Summary

Long March 5 (LM-5; Chinese: 长征五号; pinyin: Chángzhēng wǔ hào), or Changzheng 5 (CZ-5), and also by its nickname "Pang-Wu" (胖五, "Fat-Five"),[6] is a Chinese heavy-lift launch vehicle developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). It is the first Chinese launch vehicle designed to use exclusively non-hypergolic liquid propellants.[7] It is the fifth iteration of the Long March rocket family.

Long March 5
FunctionHeavy-lift launch vehicle
ManufacturerCALT
Country of originChina
Cost per launch~US$70 million [1]
Size
Height56.97 m (186.9 ft) (standard)
63.2 m (207 ft) (extended fairing)
Diameter5 m (16 ft)
Mass851,800 kg (1,877,900 lb)
Stages2
Payload to LEO
Altitude200 km × 400 km (120 mi × 250 mi)
Mass25,000 kg (55,000 lb) [2][3]
Payload to GTO
Mass14,000 kg (31,000 lb) [2][3]
Payload to TLI
Mass8,800–9,400 kg (19,400–20,700 lb)
Payload to GEO
Mass5,100 kg (11,200 lb)
Payload to SSO
Altitude700 km (430 mi)
Mass15,000 kg (33,000 lb)
Payload to SSO
Altitude2,000 km (1,200 mi)
Mass6,700 kg (14,800 lb)
Payload to MEO
Mass13,000 kg (29,000 lb)
Payload to TMI
Mass6,000 kg (13,000 lb)
Associated rockets
FamilyLong March
Comparable
Launch history
StatusActive
Launch sitesWenchang, LC-1
Total launches
12
  • CZ-5: 8
  • CZ-5B: 4
Success(es)
11
  • CZ-5: 7
  • CZ-5B: 4
Failure(s)
1 (CZ-5)
First flight
  • Long March 5: 3 November 2016[4]
  • Long March 5B: 5 May 2020[5]
Last flight
  • Long March 5: 3 May 2024
  • Long March 5B: 31 October 2022
Type of passengers/cargoMengzhou, Chang'e 5, Tianwen 1, Tianhe, Wentian, Mengtian, Chang'e 6
Boosters – CZ-5-300
No. boosters4
Height27.6 m (91 ft)
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Gross mass156,600 kg (345,200 lb)
Propellant mass142,800 kg (314,800 lb)
Powered by2 YF-100
Maximum thrustSea level: 2,400 kN (540,000 lbf)
Vacuum: 2,680 kN (600,000 lbf)
Total thrust9,600 kN (2,200,000 lbf)
Specific impulseSea level: 300 s (2.9 km/s)
Vacuum: 335.1 s (3.286 km/s)
Burn time173 seconds
PropellantRP-1 / LOX
First stage – CZ-5-500
Height33.16 m (108.8 ft)
Diameter5 m (16 ft)
Gross mass186,900 kg (412,000 lb)
Propellant mass165,300 kg (364,400 lb)
Powered by2 YF-77
Maximum thrustSea level: 1,036 kN (233,000 lbf)
Vacuum: 1,400 kN (310,000 lbf)
Specific impulseSea level: 316.7 s (3.106 km/s)
Vacuum: 428 s (4.20 km/s)
Burn time492 seconds
PropellantLH2 / LOX
Second stage (CZ-5) – CZ-5-HO
Height11.54 m (37.9 ft)
Diameter5 m (16 ft)
Gross mass36,000 kg (79,000 lb)
Propellant mass29,100 kg (64,200 lb)
Powered by2 YF-75D
Maximum thrust176.72 kN (39,730 lbf)
Specific impulse442.6 s (4.340 km/s)
Burn time700 seconds
PropellantLH2 / LOX
Third stage – YZ-2 (Optional)
Diameter3.8 m (12 ft)
Powered by2 YF-50D
Maximum thrust13 kN (2,900 lbf)
Specific impulse316 s (3.10 km/s)
Burn time1105 seconds
PropellantN2O4 / UDMH

There are currently two CZ-5 variants: CZ-5 and CZ-5B. The maximum payload capacities are approximately 25,000 kg (55,000 lb) to low Earth orbit[8] (for CZ-5B) and approximately 14,000 kg (31,000 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit (for CZ-5).[9][10]

The Long March 5 roughly matches the capabilities of American NSSL heavy-lift launch vehicles such as the Delta IV Heavy. It is currently the most powerful member of the Long March rocket family and the world's third most powerful orbital launch vehicle currently in operation, trailing the United States' Falcon Heavy and Space Launch System.[11]

The first CZ-5 launched from Wenchang Space Launch Site on 3 November 2016 and placed its payload in a suboptimal but workable initial orbit. The second CZ-5 rocket, launched on 2 July 2017, failed due to an engine problem in the first stage.[12]

After an interval of almost two and a half years, the Long March 5 successfully returned to flight with its third launch on 27 December 2019, which placed the experimental Shijian-20 communications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit, thereby paving the way for the ultimately successful launch of the Tianwen 1 Mars mission, the lunar Chang'e 5 sample-return mission, and the modular space station,[5] all of which required the lift capacity of a heavy lift launch vehicle.

History

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Rendering of Long March 5 and 5B

Proposal and development

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Since 2010, Long March launches (all versions) have made up 15–25% of the global launch totals. Growing domestic demand for launch services has also allowed China's state launch provider to maintain a healthy manifest. Additionally, China had been able to secure some international launch contracts by offering package deals that bundle launch vehicles with Chinese satellites, thereby circumventing the effects of U.S. embargo.[13]

China's main objective for initiating the new CZ-5 program in 2007 was in anticipation of its future requirement for larger LEO and GTO payload capacities during the next 20–30 years period. Formal approval of the Long March 5 program occurred in 2007 following two decades of feasibility studies when funding was finally granted by the Chinese government. At the time, the new rocket was expected to be manufactured at a facility in Tianjin, a coastal city near Beijing,[8] while launch was expected to occur at the new Wenchang Space Launch Site in the southernmost island province of Hainan.[8]

In July 2012, a new 1200 kN thrust LOX/kerosene engine to be used on the Long March 5 boosters was test-fired by China.[9][14]

The first photos of a CZ-5, undergoing tests, were released in March 2015.[15]

The first production CZ-5 was shipped from the port of Tianjin in North China to Wenchang Space Launch Site on Hainan Island on 20 September 2015 for launch rehearsals.[16]

The maiden flight of the CZ-5 was initially scheduled for 2014, but this subsequently slipped to 2016.[17]

The final production and testing of the first CZ-5 rocket to be launched into orbit were completed at its Tianjin manufacturing facility on or about 16 August 2016 and the various segments of the rocket were shipped to the launch center on Hainan island shortly thereafter.[18]

Early flights

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The launch was planned to take place at around 10:00 UTC on 3 November 2016, but several issues, involving an oxygen vent and chilling of the engines, were detected during the preparation, causing a delay of nearly three hours. The final countdown was interrupted three times due to problems with the flight control computer and the tracking software.[19] The rocket finally launched at 12:43 UTC.[20]

The second launch on 2 July 2017 experienced an anomaly shortly after launch and was switched to an alternate, gentler trajectory. However, it was declared a failure 45 minutes into the flight.[21][22] Investigations revealed the source of the second flight's failure to be located in one of the core stage's YF-77 engines (specifically, in the oxidizer's turbo-pump).[5]

The Y3 mission of the Long March 5 program was launched on 27 December 2019, at about 12:45 UTC from the Wenchang Space Launch Site in Hainan, China. CASC declared the mission a success within an hour of launch, after the Shijian-20 communications satellite was placed in geostationary transfer orbit, thus marking the Long March 5 program's return to flight.[5]

Introduction of Long March 5B

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The fourth flight of the Long March 5 program also marked the debut of the CZ-5B variant. This variant retains the base Long March 5's core stage and its four strap-on boosters; however, the CZ-5's second stage (with 2 YF-75D engines) has been removed from the CZ-5B. This variant is used to launch heavy low Earth orbit payloads such as components of the Tiangong space station. The 5B variant may also be considered for launching satellite constellations in the future using the Yuanzheng upper stage.[23]

The first flight of the 5B variant ("Y1 mission") carried an uncrewed prototype of China's future deep space crewed spacecraft, and, as a secondary payload, the Flexible Inflatable Cargo Re-entry Vehicle. The Y1 mission was launched on 5 May 2020, at 10:00 UTC from the Wenchang Space Launch Site in Hainan Island. CASC declared the launch a success after the payloads were placed in low Earth orbit.[24][25]

The flight's secondary payload, the experimental cargo return craft, malfunctioned during its return to Earth on 6 May 2020.[26] Nevertheless, the return capsule of the prototype next-generation crewed spacecraft, the flight's primary payload, successfully landed in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at 05:49 UTC, on 8 May 2020. The prototype spacecraft flew in orbit for two days and 19 hours and carried out a series of successful experiments and technological verifications.[27] The Y1 mission's core stage may have been the most massive object to make an uncontrolled re-entry since the Soviet Union's Salyut 7 space station in 1991 and the United States' Skylab in 1979, excluding the failed controlled reentry of Space Shuttle Columbia over populated areas of the Continental United States in 2003.[28][a][b]

Space station construction

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Long March 5B was the workhorse during the Tiangong space station construction. The second Long March 5B mission was the launch of Tianhe core module, the first component of the Chinese space station.[31]

Design and specifications

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The YF-100 and YF-77 engines used by Long March 5.

The chief designer of CZ-5 is Li Dong (Chinese: 李东) of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). The CZ-5 family includes three primary modular core stages of 5.2-m diameter (maximum). The vehicle's total length is 60.5 meters and its weight at launch is 643 tons, with a thrust of 833.8 tons. Boosters of various capabilities and diameters ranging from 2.25 meters to 3.35 meters would be assembled from three modular core stages and strap-on stages. The first stage and boosters would have a choice of engines that use different liquid rocket propellants: 1200 kN thrust LOX / kerosene engines or 1550 kN thrust LOX / LH2. The upper stage would use improved versions of the YF-75 engine.

Engine development began in 2000–2001, with testing directed by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) commencing in 2005. Versions of both new engines, the YF-100 and the YF-77, had been successfully tested by mid-2007.[citation needed]

The CZ-5 series can deliver ~23 tonnes of payload to LEO or ~14 tonnes of payload to GTO (geosynchronous transfer orbit).[32] The CZ-5 launch vehicle would consist of a 5.0-m diameter core stage and four 3.35-m diameter strap-on boosters, which would be able to send a ~22 tonne payload to low Earth orbit (LEO).

Six CZ-5 variants were originally planned,[33][34] but the light variants were cancelled in favor of CZ-6 and CZ-7 family launch vehicles.[citation needed]

Active[32][10]
Version CZ-5 CZ-5B
Boosters 4 × (CZ-5-300, 2 × YF-100) 4 × (CZ-5-300, 2 × YF-100)
First stage CZ-5-500, 2 × YF-77 CZ-5-500, 2 × YF-77
Second stage CZ-5-HO, 2 × YF-75D
Third stage (optional) Yuanzheng-2
Thrust (at ground) 10.62 MN 10.62 MN
Launch weight 851,800 kg 837,500 kg [35]
Height 56.97 m 53.66 m
Payload (LEO 200 km) ~25,000 kg [36]
Payload (GTO) 14,000 kg [36]
Proposed[36][8]
Version CZ-5-200 CZ-5-320 CZ-5-522 CZ-5-540
Boosters 2 × CZ-5-200, YF-100 2 × CZ-5-200, YF-100; 2 × CZ-5-300, 2 × YF-100 4 × CZ-5-200, YF-100
First stage CZ-5-200, YF-100 CZ-5-300, 2 × YF-100 CZ-5-500, 2 × YF-77 CZ-5-500, 2 × YF-77
Second stage CZ-YF-73, YF-73 CZ-5-KO, CZ-5-HO, 2 × YF-75D CZ-5-HO, 2 × YF-75D
Third stage (not used for LEO) CZ-5-HO, YF-75
Thrust (at ground) 1.34 MN 7.2 MN 8.24 MN 5.84 MN
Launch weight 82,000 kg 420,000 kg 630,000 kg 470,000 kg
Height (maximal) 33 m 55 m 58 m 53 m
Payload (LEO 200 km) 1500 kg 10,000 kg 20,000 kg 10,000 kg
Payload (GTO) 6000 kg 11,000 kg 6000 kg

Space debris concerns

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Launching Tianhe Core Module on Long March 5B-Y2

The first stage of the Long March 5B variant, which can reach orbital velocity and weighs 21.6 tonnes, currently lacks the capability for controlled atmospheric re-entry, meaning that debris could cause damage on the ground upon re-entry.[37] Without modification, it is expected all LEO launches of the Long March 5B will result in uncontrolled re-entries.[38][39]

The 5B is the specific variant in concern due to its unique LEO configuration. The core rocket stage (first stage) is launched directly into orbit,[40] which also unusually serves as the upper stage to perform payload insertion.[41] Typically, the rocket's first stage never reaches orbital velocity, while the smaller upper stage will usually burn up in the atmosphere during re-entry. However, Long March 5B's first and upper stage is combined into one, making the mitigation effort more difficult.[41]

Potential solutions include restarting engines during re-entry to reduce speed and collision probability, as the case for Long March 2D. China has also developed grid fins on other Long March variants to steer stages during re-entry.[42] However, Long March 5B has yet to demonstrate these capabilities.[41]

The debris found at Ivory Coast in May 2022 was reportedly the remains of the first Long March 5B launch (5B-Y1).[43][44] Although the probability of rocket debris hitting populated areas is mathematically minuscule, some scientists fear the lax attitude of many countries could eventually result in casualties.[45]

Responding to the criticism, CNSA claimed they had conducted measures to ensure safe re-entries. Xu Yansong, former director for international cooperation at the China National Space Administration (CNSA), told the audience on the CNSA live stream for 5B-Y3 that the re-entry process was improved with the "passivation process" (Chinese: 钝化处理[46]), and the core stage was specially designed with lighter materials so the vast majority of components will be ablated during the re-entry.[47][48] Before the launch of 5B-Y4, Liu Bing, deputy director-designer of the Long March 5B, told journalists that "an elaborative evaluation" was performed on the 5B to enable safe re-entry, though no details regarding the improved re-entry procedure were revealed.[49]

The core stage of the Long March 5B-Y3 re-entered Earth's atmosphere on 30 July 2022 over the Indian and Pacific oceans.[44] The debris of 5B-Y4 fell down in south-central Pacific Ocean on 4 November 2022.[50]

Launch statistics

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Rockets in the Long March 5 family currently have accumulated a total of 12 launches as of 3 May 2024. Of these, 11 were successful with a single failed launch. The cumulative success rate is 91.7%.

1
2
3
4
2016
2020
2024
  •   Failure
  •   Partial failure
  •   Success
  •   Planned

List of launches

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Flight No. Date (UTC) Variant Launch site Upper stage Photo Payload Orbit Result
Y1 3 November 2016
12:43
5 Wenchang, LC-1 YZ-2   Shijian 17 GTO Success
Y2 2 July 2017
11:23
5 Wenchang, LC-1 None   Shijian 18 GTO Failure
Y3 27 December 2019
12:45
5 Wenchang, LC-1 None   Shijian 20 GTO Success
5B-Y1 5 May 2020
10:00 [25][51]
5B Wenchang, LC-1 None Mengzhou (prototype) LEO Success
Y4 23 July 2020
04:41 [52]
5 Wenchang, LC-1 None   Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter, lander, rover and a group of cubesat cameras TMI Success
Y5 23 November 2020
20:30 [53]
5 Wenchang, LC-1 None   Chang'e 5, lunar sample-return TLI Success
5B-Y2 29 April 2021
03:23:15 [54]
5B Wenchang, LC-1 None   Tianhe, Chinese space station core module LEO Success
5B-Y3 24 July 2022
06:22:32 [55][56]
5B Wenchang, LC-1 None   Wentian, Chinese space station experiment module 1 LEO Success
5B-Y4 31 October 2022
07:37:23 [57]
5B Wenchang, LC-1 None   Mengtian, Chinese space station experiment module 2 LEO Success
Y6 15 December 2023
13:41[58]
5 Wenchang, LC-1 None   Yaogan 41 GTO Success
Y7 23 February 2024
11:30[59]
5 Wenchang, LC-1 None TJS-11 GTO Success
Y8 3 May 2024
09:27[60]
5 Wenchang, LC-1 None Chang'e 6, lunar far-side sample-return TLI Success
5B-Y? 2024 5B Wenchang, LC-1 YZ-2 Guowang LEO Planned
2024 5 Wenchang, LC-1 None Shensuo (Interstellar Express) (IHP-1) HCO Planned
5B-Y? 2025[61][62] 5B Wenchang, LC-1 None Xuntian LEO Planned
2026[63] 5 Wenchang, LC-1 None Chang'e 7, Lunar Antarctic Comprehensive Exploration Mission TLI Planned
2028[64] 5 Wenchang, LC-1 None Chang'e 8, Scientific exploration test, lunar surface test

Verification for the construction of lunar scientific research base

TLI Planned
2028[65] 5 Wenchang, LC-1 None Tianwen-3, Mars sample-return mission TMI Planned
September 2029[66] 5 Wenchang, LC-1 None Tianwen-4, Jupiter orbiter and Uranus flyby probe HCO Planned

See also

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Notes

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  1. ^ A piece of debris up to 12-meters long, possibly originating from the reentry of the CZ-5B core stage from this launch, was found in the Ivory Coast's village of Mahounou on about 11 or 12 May 2020.[29]
  2. ^ The core stage of the CZ-5B Y2 mission also attained enough velocity to remain in low but declining Earth orbit for over a week, as did the core stage for the CZ-5B Y1 mission; the CZ-5B Y2 mission's core stage eventually reentered Earth's atmosphere many kilometers above the Arabian Peninsula during the early morning hours of 9 May 2021 (UTC) with a possible debris impact location off the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.[30]

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