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Long March LV Family
Long March LV Family
Long March launch vehicles available as of mid-1998.

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Launch Vehicle: Tsien Spaceplane 1949.

In 1949 Tsien Hsue-shen, the leading expert in high-speed aerodynamics working in America, applied the knowledge learned from German rocket developments to the design of a practical intercontinental rocket transport. He proposed a 5,000 km single stage winged rocket clearly derived from V-2 aerodynamics. The 22,000 kg rocket would carry ten passengers from New York to Los Angeles in 45 minutes. It would take off vertically, with the rocket burning out after 60 seconds at 14,740 kph at 160 km altitude. After a coast to 500 km, it would re-enter the atmosphere and enter a long glide at 43 km altitude. Landing speed was to be 240 kph. Tsienís fundamental theoretical work on this concept lead to him being called the ĎFather of the Dyna-soarí (a 1950ís/1960ís delta winged spaceplane that was the ancestor of the space shuttle).

Launch Vehicle: DF-3. Development of the original DF-3 10,000 km missile was undertaken personally by Chien Hue Shen, the father of Chinese rocketry, but faced insurmountable technical and management difficulties. It was cancelled and replaced by the DF-4.

Launch Vehicle: DF-2. First Chinese IRBM, the DF-2 was launched in 1966 with a 20 kt warhead from Shaunchengtzu, 800 km to Lop Nor, where the warhead successfully exploded.

Launch Vehicle: DF-2A. Extended range version of DF-2.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-1. China's first orbital launch vehicle, derived from the DF-3 IRBM. Nitric acid/UDMH propellants.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-1M. Proposed launch vehicle derived from CZ-1, with an Italian Mage upper stage. Never flown.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-1C. Proposed launch vehicle derived from the CZ-1, with a new upper stage. Never flown.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-1D. Proposed launch vehicle derived from the CZ-1, but with a new N2O4/UDMH second stage. Used for a suborbital re-entry vehicle test but never flown on an orbital mission.

Launch Vehicle: FB-1. Launch vehicle derived from DF-5 ICBM. Very similar to CZ-2C.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-2A. Launch vehicle derived from DF-5 ICBM, FB-1 launch vehicle. Unkown detailed differences from FB-1; masses given are as for FB-1.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-2C.

Definitive low earth orbit launch vehicle derived from DF-5 ICBM, FB-1 launch vehicle. Provided basis for subsequent family of launch vehicles.The Long March 2C was a two-stage launch vehicle with storable propellants, suitable for launching a variety of low earth orbit satellites. The CZ-2C's typical payload capability was 2,800 kg into a 200 km circular orbit. The CZ-2C could be launched from either the Jiuquan or Taiyuan launch sites. On October 6, 1992, the Swedish Freja satellite was successfully launched as a copassenger on the CZ-2C's thirteenth flight.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-2C/SD.

On April 28, 1993, the Chinese Great Wall Industrial Corporation and Motorola signed a launch services contract for multiple launch of Iridium communications satellites using CZ-2C/SD launch vehicles. The main differences between the CZ-2C and the CZ-2C/SD were: a modified fairing with a diameter of 3.35m; a newly developed Smart Dispenser; improved second stage fuel and oxidizer tanks; and second stage engines with higher expansion ratio nozzles. The Smart Dispenser included a solid rocket kick motor for insertion of the Iridium satellites into a 780 km circular orbit. Each CZ-2C/SD had the capacity of delivering two Iridium system satellites. A successful CZ-2C/SD demonstration launch was conducted from Taiyuan on September 1, 1997. The first three deployment launches for the Iridium program were successfully conducted on December 8, 1997, March 26, 1998 and May 2, 1998.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-2D.

The Long March 2D was a two-stage launch vehicle with storable propellants, suitable for launching a variety of low earth orbit satellites. Developed and manufactured by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, the CZ-2D had a typical payload capability of 3,500kg in a 200 km circular orbit. Its first stage was identical to that of the CZ-4. The second stage was essentially the same as that of the CZ-4, except for an improved vehicle equipment bay.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-2E.

Largest Chinese launch vehicle, using four liquid rocket booster strap-ons to reach LEO payload capabilities approaching the Russian Proton, US Titan, or European Ariane rockets. The Long March 2E had a maximum payload capability of 9,500 kg. The CZ-2E was based on the mature technology of previous versions of Long March launch vehicles. With a solid Perigee Kick Motor (EPKM, built by Hexi Company, China), the CZ-2E could put 3,500 kg into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. Launch event sequence:

 Event                                   TIME (sec.)
 Liftoff                                  0.0
 Pitch over                              11.0
 Booster engine shutoff                 125.8
 Booster separation                     127.3
 First Stage Engine Shutoff             158.9
 First/Second Stage Separation          160.4
 Jettisoning of Fairing                 200.4
 Second Stage Main Engine Shutoff       459.9
 Vernier Engine Shutoff (LEO injection) 572.9
 Start of re-orientation                582.9
 End of re-orientation                  582.9+Tr
 Ignition of spin-up rockets            582.9+Tr+10.0
 End of spin-up                         582.9+Tr+10.5 
 Payload separation                     582.9+Tr+10.7
 Ignition of tumbling rocket            582.9+Tr+14

Launch Vehicle: CZ-3.

The Long March 3 was a three-stage launch vehicle designed for delivery of satellites of 1,500 kg mass into geosynchronous transfer orbit. The first and second stages were based on the CZ-2C, and designed and manufactured by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology. The majority of the technology and flight hardware used in the CZ-3 had been qualified and proven on the CZ-2C. The third stage, manufactured by CALT, was equipped with an LOX/LH2 cryogenic engine. Long March 3 was also capable of placing spacecraft into an elliptical or circular low earth orbit and sun synchronous orbit.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-4A.

The Long March 4 was a three-stage launch vehicle using storable propellants. The CZ-4 was developed and manufactured by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology. Its first stage was essentially the same as that of the CZ-3 and the second stage was identical to that of the CZ-3. The CZ-4's third stage, however, is newly developed, featuring a thin wall common intertank bulkhead tankage and two-engine cluster with both engines gimbling about two perpendicular axes. The 3rd stage engine cluster connects to the tank aft bulkhead through the engine bay. The CZ-4 had two payload fairing configurations: Type-A and Type-B. The CZ-4 was designed for launching satellites into polar and sun-synchronous orbits. The CZ-4's typical payload capability is 1,650kg into a 600km sun-synchronous orbitsand 4,680 kg into a 200km circular orbit. On September 7, 1988, the CZ-4A made its first flight, successfully launching China's first experimental meteorological satellite. Another meteorological satellite was successfully launched by a CZ-4A on September 3, 1990. The CZ-4B introduced in 1999 was an improved model with enhanced third stage and fairing. It measured 44.1 metres in length with a first stage thrust of 300 tonnes.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-2 Spaceplane Launcher.

Tsienís manned spacecraft design proposed in the late 1970ís was a winged spaceplane, launched by a CZ-2 core booster with two large strap-on boosters. It so strongly resembled the cancelled US Dynasoar of 15 years earlier that US intelligence analysts wondered if it wasnít based on declassified Dynasoar technical information. First public announcement of the manned program came in February, 1978. In January, 1980 the Chinese press reported a visit with the Chinese astronaut trainees at the Chinese manned spaceflight training centre. Photographs appeared of the astronauts at the controls of a space shuttle-like spaceplane cockpit. But then, suddenly, in December, 1980, Wang Zhuanshan, the Secretary General of the New China Space Research Society and Chief Engineer of the Space Centre of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, announced that Chinese manned flight was being postponed because of its cost. Fundamental economic development was given priority.

Masses, performance estimated based on two strap-on boosters identical to CZ-2 first stage on a CZ-2 core.

Launch Vehicle: Project 921.

In 1992 Xiandong Bao of the Shanghai Astronautics Bureau revealed plans for a modular family of modern rockets to support future Chinese manned space activities. The entire family would be based on a Lox/Kerosene booster stage of 306 tonnes mass, and a Lox/LH2 upper stage of 57 tonnes mass. The stages would be combined and clustered to achieve a wide range of payload capabilities:

VehicleBasicAB C D E
Booster Stages122246
Upper Stages Stages1nonenone 1nonenone
Lift-off mass (tonnes)373944802 1,0181,5832,219
Lift-off thrust (kN)4 x 1,20012 x 1,2008 x 1,200
+2 x 490*
12 x 1,20020 x 1,20028 x 1,200
Payload LEO (tonnes)112230 384870

* The B vehicle unusually used two of the Lox/LH2 engines to supplement the main engines.

Like Chelomeiís UR-700 vehicles, the core booster engines would ignite at lift-off but initially use propellants from the lateral booster stages. At jettison of the lateral stages, the connections would be closed, allowing the core booster to proceed with the next burn with full propellant tanks.

The stages were sized at 4.5 m diameter to allow rail transport from the factory to the launch site at Jiuquan. Lateral clustering of the boosters allowed the height of the vehicle to be kept at no more than 60 m.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-3A.

The Long March 3A was a three-stage launch vehicle. By incorporating the mature technologies of the CZ-3 and adding a more powerful cryogenic third stage and more capable control system, the CZ-3A had a greater geosynchronous transfer orbit capability, greater flexibility for attitude control, and better adaptability to a variety of launch missions. The CZ-3A's geosynchronous transfer orbit payload capability was 2,700kg. By June 30, 1998, the CZ-3A had made three consecutive successful launches, and was offered to international customers.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-3B.

The Long March 3B was the most powerful Long March launch vehicle. It could inject a 5,000 kg payload into geosynchronous transfer orbit. The CZ-3B was developed on the basis of the CZ-3A, but had enlarged propellant tanks, larger fairing, and four boosters strapped onto the core stage. The CZ-3B boosters were identical to those of the CZ-3A.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-3C. Launch vehicle combining CZ-3B core with two boosters from CZ-2E. The standard fairing is 9.56 m long, 4.0 m in diameter.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-4B. The CZ-4B introduced in 1999 was an improved model of the CZ-4B with an enhanced third stage and fairing. It measured 44.1 metres in length with a first stage thrust of 300 tonnes.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-2F. Man-rated version of CZ-2E. Little difference externally. Modifications probably are related to improved redundancy of systems, strengthened upper stage to handle large 921-1 spacecraft fairing and launch escape tower.

Launch Vehicle: CZ-2E(A). Planned upgrade of CZ-2E with enlarged boosters. Probably intended for launch of Chinese space station modules in the next century.

Launch Vehicle: China NGLV.

China's new generation launch vehicle as announced in February 2001 was to be a modular design that consisted of three types of core stages with diameters of 2.25 m, 3.35 m and 5.0 m and two types of engines using Lox/Kerosene and Lox/LH2. Various models of heavy launcher were planned based on the 5.0 m core stage + 3.35 m strap-ons. Also planned were a 3.35 m core stage + 2.25 m strap-ons medium launcher and a 2.25 m core small launcher. The new launcher was to be capable of lifting up to 25 tonnes to LEO and up to 13 tonnes to GTO.

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Last update 3 May 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .