China develops new-generation rockets for upcoming missions
China has developed a number of new-generation carrier rockets to take the country's space industry to the next level.
The Long March-7 is a medium-sized carrier rocket with high reliability and safety. It is designed to launch cargo vehicles during the construction of China's manned space station project and meet the long-term demand for upgrading manned carrier rockets in service.
The rocket is 53.1 meters long with a core-level diameter of 3.35 meters, four 2.25m-diameter boosters and a takeoff weight of 596 tons. It has a lift capability of sending 13.5 tons of payload to low-Earth orbit, or 5.5 tons of payload to sun-synchronous orbit, according to Wang Xiaojun, who is in charge of the Long March-7 rocket system.
On June 25, 2016, a Long March-7 rocket launched a number of payloads into orbit from the the Wenchang Space Launch Center in south China's Hainan Province. On April 20, 2017, at the same launch site, a Long March-7 launched cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 into space.
It is also China's first digitally designed carrier rocket, meaning no paper blueprint was used throughout the design and production process.
The rocket is also more environment friendly than in previous generations. Free of highly toxic propellant, "it is powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen, which increases its thrust by 50 percent and lowers costs to one-tenth of conventional propellants," Wang said.
The Long March-7 will become the main carrier for China's future space missions, according to Wang.
The Long March-9 rocket will be China's largest heavy-lift carrier rocket. It will be capable of lifting 50 to 140 tons into low-Earth orbit, which is key to China's lunar exploration, deep space explorations, space infrastructure construction and utilization of space resources.
It will greatly enhance China's ability to promote space development and safeguard space security, said Zhang Zhi, chief designer of the rocket.
In addition, the heavy rocket is being designed to facilitate China's lunar missions, including landings with crew.
The Long March-11 is a four-stage, solid-fueled rocket that is used to launch payloads to low-Earth and sun-synchronous orbits. It is 20.8 meters long, with a maximum diameter of two meters and a takeoff weight of 58 tons.
Since its maiden flight on September 25, 2015, the Long March-11 rockets have been launched six times, sending 25 satellites into space.
It has flexible and rapid response abilities and can be launched within 24 hours.
Jin Xin, deputy chief commander of the rocket, said the Long March-11 could support emergency communications and remote sensing observations after natural disasters and incidents.
It is also designed for commercial use to meet the growing needs of launching micro satellites.
China is planning its first sea-launch of satellites carried by a Long March-11 rocket this year.