Chang Zheng (Long March) – Space Launch Report

Chang Zheng (Long March) - Space Launch Report

During the 1960s, China developed a series of Dong Feng (DF, or “East Wind”) ballistic missiles capable of carrying thermonuclear warheads. Two of these missiles, the intermediate range DF-3 and the intercontinental range DF-5, were subsequently adopted for use as space launchers.

Chang Zheng (Long March) - Space Launch Report

A small solid fuel third stage was added to the 2.25 meter diameter DF-3 missile to create Chang Zheng 1 (CZ-1, or Long March 1), China’s first space launcher. On April 24, 1970, CZ-1 boosted China’s first satellite, Dong Fang Hong (DFH-1, “The East is Red”), into low earth orbit from Jiuquan Space Center, on the western edge of Inner Mongolia’s Alashan Desert. After a second launch in 1971, CZ-1 was supplanted by more powerful DF-5 based vehicles

DF-5, first test flown in 1971, used two 3.35 meter diameter stages that carried the storable propellants UDHM and nitrogen tetroxide. Its first stage was powered by the 284 metric ton thrust (sea-level) YF-21, which was an assembly of four 71 ton thrust YF-20 engines. Its second stage was powered by a YF-24 engine consisting of a 73 ton-thrust YF-22 and a 4.7 ton-thrust YF-23 vernier.

Chang Zheng (Long March) - Space Launch Report

The first space launchers derived from DF-5 were the nearly-identical Feng Bao (FB-1, or Tempest), manufactured by Shanghai Academy of Space Technology (SAST), and CZ-2 developed by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) in Beijing. CZ-2 (CZ-2C with a stretched second stage) launched 1.8 ton FSW recoverable film spy satellites, which landed by parachute in the Alashan, while FB-1 orbited 1 ton nonrecoverable TV imaging satellites. Both two-stage rockets flew from Jiquan into low earth orbit (LEO) beginning in 1973-74.

FB-1 was discontinued after 1981. Shortly thereafter, SAST began to manufacture for CALT the first two stages of CZ-3, a new DF-5 based launcher with a liquid hydrogen fueled third stage.

CZ-3 first flew from China’s new Xichang Space Center in south-central Szechwan Province in 1984, making China the third country/region to fly a hydrogen stage after the United States and Europe. The rocket could boost 1.4 ton payloads into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).

Chang Zheng (Long March) - Space Launch Report

CZ-4 inaugurated a third launch site, Taiyuan Space Center in northeast China’s Shansi Province, in 1988. Taiyuan was China’s first site for launching spacecraft into polar orbits. CZ-4 was equipped with a hypergolic third stage that allowed it to put almost 1.7 tons into a 600 km sun synchronous orbit.

CZ-4, later upgraded with an improved third stage as CZ-4B, heralded the beginning of a new generation of DF-5 based rockets. These were powered by improved YF-21B first stage engines that produced 302 tons of sea level thrust. Some models used four strap-on liquid boosters, each with one YF-20B engine, to double the total liftoff thrust. Upper stage engines were also upgraded.  In 2007, CZ-4C, fitted with an upgraded, restartable third stage and a larger payload fairing, first appeared.

Chang Zheng (Long March) - Space Launch Report

Two-stage CZ-2D, able to put 3.5 tons into LEO, began to replace CZ-2C. CZ-2E, with four strap-on boosters and a solid-fuel third stage, boosted up to 3.4 tons into GTO from Xichang. CZ-3A, with a more powerful hydrogen-fueled third stage, supplanted CZ-3 and CZ-3B, a CZ-3A with four strap-on boosters, could put 5.1 tons into GTO.  In 2008, CZ-3C, a CZ-3A with two strap-on boosters, debuted.

During the 1990s, China’s Long March rockets garnered international commercial launch business, but a series of costly launch failures, an insurance filing that claimed one rocket had provided a damaging rough ride to orbit, a technology transfer scandal involving a U.S. satellite manufacturer, and a collapsing commercial market all conspired to chase away many Western customers.

The most infamous launch failure occurred on February 14, 1996 when a CZ-3B carrying Intelsat 708 veered out of control to near-horizontal flight immediately after clearing its Xichang launch tower. The rocket smashed into a populated area, killing at least six and wounding dozens.

In 1999, the first CZ-2F, a modified CZ-2E, launched 8.4 ton Shenzhou 1 into LEO from a new launch complex at Jiuquan. This first uncrewed test flight was followed by three additional tests before Shenzhou 5 orbited Yang Liwei, China’s first “astronaut”, on October 15, 2003, making China the third nation to possess indigenous human launch capability.

Also read: SpaceX Super Heavy/Starship

Vehicle Configurations

 LEO
Payload
(metric tons)
200 km x
28 deg
LEO
Payload
(metric tons)
200 km x
98 deg
GTO
Payload
(metric
tons)
ConfigurationLIftoff
Height
(meters)
Liftoff
Mass
(metric
tons)
CZ-2C/SD2.8 t0.75 t CZ-2C stg1
+ CZ-2C stg2
+ Smart Dispenser
40 m213 t
CZ-2D3.5 t2.0 t CZ-4A stg 1&237.7m232 t
CZ-2E9.5 t 3.37 tCZ-2E stgs 1-3
+ 4xCZ-2E stg 0
49.7 m460 t
CZ-2F8.4 t  CZ-2E stgs 1&2
+ 4xCZ-2E stg 0
+ Shenzhou
62 m464 t
CZ-3A7.2 t 2.6 tCZ-3A stgs 1-352.5 m241 t
CZ-3B11.2 t5.7 t5.1 tCZ-3A stgs 1-3
+ 4xCZ-2E stg 0
54.8 m426 t
CZ-3C  3.7 tCZ-3A stgs 1-3
+ 2xCZ-2E stg 0
54.8 m345 t
CZ-4B4.2 t2.8 t1.5 tCZ-4A stg 1&2
+ CZ-4B stg 3
45.8 m249 t
CZ-4C2.8 t 1.5 tCZ-4A stg 1&2
+ CZ-4B stg 3
45.8 m249 t

Vehicle Components

 CZ-2C
Stage 1
CZ-2C
Stage 2
CZ-2E
Stage 0
CZ-2E
Stage 1
CZ-2E
Stage 2
CZ-2E
Stage 3
CZ-3A
Stage 1
CZ-3A
Stage 2
Diameter (m)3.35 m3.35 m2.25 m3.35 m3.35 m1.7 m3.35 m3.35 m
Length (m)20.52 m7.5 m15.33 m23.7 m15.52 m3.1 m23.08 m11.53 m
Propellant Mass (tons)143 t35 t37.8 t187 t86 t5.23 t170 t29.6 t
Total Mass (tons)153 t39 t41 t196.5 t91.5 t5.99 t179 t33.6 t
EngineYF20YF22/23YF20BYF20BYF 25/23EPKMYF20BYF 25/23
Engine Mfgr        
FuelUDMHUDMHUDMHUDMHUDMHSolidUDMHUDMH
OxidizerN2O4N2O4N2O4N2O4N2O4 N2O4N2O4
Thrust
(SL tons)
284 t 75.5 t302 t  302 t 
Thrust
(Vac tons)
306 t77.7 t83.2 t333 t84.7 t12 t333 t84.7 t
ISP (SL sec)        
ISP (Vac sec)289 s295 s289 s289 s298 s298 s289 s298 s
Burn Time (sec)128 s130 s128 s166 s295 s135 s155 s110 s
No. Engines41141141

Vehicle Components Cont’d

 CZ-3A
Stage 3
CZ-4A
Stage 1
CZ-4A
Stage 2
CZ-4B
Stage 3
Diameter (m)3 m3.35 m3.35 m2.9 m
Length (m)12.38 m24.66 m10.41 m6.24 m
Propellant Mass (tons)18.2 t183.2 t35.55 t~14 t
Total Mass (tons)21 t192.7 t39.55 t~16 t
EngineYF75YF20BYF25/23YF40
Engine Mfgr    
FuelLH2UDMHUDMHUDMH
OxidizerLOXN2O4N2O4N2O4
Thrust
(SL tons)
 302 t  
Thrust
(Vac tons)
16 t333 t84.7 t10.3 t
ISP (SL sec)    
ISP (Vac sec)440 s289 s295 s306 s
Burn Time (sec)470 s170 s135 s412 s
No. Engines24

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