Spaceport China Long March 5 Liftoff. Bob Zimmerman,



(Photo: The Wenchang space center lies at 19 degrees north latitude, the closest location to the )

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Spaceport China Long March 5 Liftoff. Bob Zimmerman,

The competition heats up: The first launch of China’s new big rocket, Long March 5, is now scheduled for Thursday morning at 10 universal time, 5:30 am Eastern.

The Long March 5 is comparable to the most powerful active rockets in the world such as the Delta-IV Heavy, Atlas V and Ariane 5, and will launch the technology experiment satellite Shijian-17 high into to geosynchronous. At more than 800 tonnes, 53 metres in height and with a 5 metre diameter core, the Long March 5 has been designed to launch the 20-tonne modules of China’s planned space station into low Earth orbit, starting with the core module in 2018.

With the first orbital flight taking place on June 2016, Wenchang Space Launch Centre is located in the northeast corner of the Hainan Island on the southern coast of China.

The new launch complex brings a more large versatility that isn’t provided by the other three launch sites. Wenchang provides an increase in performance for the launch vehicles gained from the Earth’s rotational speed because is closer to the Earth equator. This reduces the amount of propellants required for the satellite’s maneuver from the transit orbit to GEO.

The launch vehicle can fly from the launch site to the southeast direction into the South Pacific, avoiding the possibility of rocket debris falling into any populated area.

The center is equipped with two launch complexes. Launch Complex LC101 is used for the Long March-5 launch vehicle family while Launch Complex LC201 is used for the Long March-7 launch vehicle.

Both pads are similar and are equipped with a fixed umbilical tower, underground flame deflector trenches and ducts. Similarly to what happens at the other Chinese launch centers, the umbilical towers have swing arms to allow technicians to access and inspect the launch vehicle and payload.

The launch pads at the new launch complex use a sound suppression system, spraying large volumes of water at the launcher platform and into the flame deflector trenches below to dampen sound waves generated by the rocket engines.

The launch pads are served by two vehicle assembly and integration buildings. Launch Complex LC101 is served by Building 501 while Launch Complex LC201 is served by Building 502.

Each building is 99.4 meters tall permitting the assembly and testing of the launch vehicle in a full, vertical stacked position. This is a new approach to the launch vehicle preparation for flight, because at the other Chinese launch centers the launchers are stacked and tested for flight at the launch platforms.

After being stacked at the vehicle assembly and integration building at the top of a mobile launch platform, this is the rolled to the launch pad.

The journey takes several minutes to cover the 2,800 meters separating the vehicle assembly and integration buildings, and the launch pads. After arriving at the launch pads, the mobile structure is then placed above the flame trench and the necessary umbilical connections between the fixed structures and the mobile platform are established.

3 months ago
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