China's largest ever rocket a big step forward for space program

By Global Times – Agencies Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/3 20:38:39

The Long March 5-is transported from its assembly workshop to the launching site. Photo: Sun Hao/China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

The Long March 5-is transported from its assembly workshop to the launching site. Photo: Sun Hao/China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

Workers install the component of the Long March-5. Photo: Sun Hao/China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

Workers install the component of the Long March-5. Photo: Sun Hao/China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

The Long March-5 ready to leave the workshop for the launching site  Sun Hao/China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

The Long March-5 ready to leave the workshop for the launching site Sun Hao/China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

The rocket on its way to the launching site Photo: Sun Hao/China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

The rocket on its way to the launching site Photo: Sun Hao/China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

The rocket moves towards to the launching site. Photo: Sun Hao/China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology  Sun Hao/China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

The rocket moves towards to the launching site. Photo: Sun Hao/China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology

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The Long March-5 rocket, nicknamed "Fatty Five" by its builder due to its size, is a big step forward for the country's space station and moon exploration programs.

Weighing more than 800 tons, standing at 57 meters in height and with a 5 meter diameter core, the largest ever domestically-designed rocket is said to be able to take a 25-ton payload into low Earth orbit, up from China's previous maximum of 8 tons.

Walking 1.65 meters only takes a few seconds for most people. However, it took nearly 10 years to extend the diameter of the Long March-5 core from 3.35 to 5 meters.

"The carrying capacity of the Long March-5 is 2.5 times that of the current launch rockets. It is a rocket with a new design, a new construction and is made of new materials," said Meng Fanxin, deputy general manager of the Tianjin branch of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), one of the designers of the Long March-5.

"The rocket is a big step forward for not only China's aerospace industry but will also boost the development of the country's whole industrial system," Meng added.

Due to the huge size of its body, no railway in China is wide enough to transport the Long March-5, and therefore the Fatty Five had to be shipped from Tianjin to Wenchang, traveling over 1,800 maritime miles. This also makes Wenchang the best choice for this crucial test.

In order to send this 800-ton monster into the sky, eight liquid-oxygen/kerosene engines, each weighing 120 tons, are set on the rocket's four boosters. These eight engines are able to produce a total pressure equivalent to 500 Earth atmospheres.

The new engine also employs innovative technologies, using nontoxic and nonpolluting liquid fuel for the main boosters. However, the prototypes of this new engine have failed four times, including two explosions.

Zhou Limin, the deputy president of the sixth department of CASC said that these engines require a high level of precision when starting-up due to inherent instabilities in the design, adding that many of his colleagues have had nightmares about explosions recently.

Though its position near the equator is very helpful, its tropical climate means that Wenchang's weather conditions are highly changeable. Its hot temperatures, humidity, strong winds and the risk of typhoons all also pose challenges to the launch.

"The weather has been getting better in the past few days, by the time of the launching window the weather conditions will meet the requirements for sending off the rocket," Mao Wanbiao, the leader of the quality supervision team of Wenchang, was quoted as saying by China National Radio.

"It is a good opportunity, we have already discussed it, it's going to be okay," Mao added.

Next year, the Long March-5 will be used to launch the Chang'e-5 probe to collect and return samples from the moon. Three 20-ton modules for Tiangong Space Station will be launched by the rocket from 2018 onwards and China will aim to have started exploring Mars by 2020.

The launch of the Long March-5 seeks to drive China's space program into the final frontier and allow more advanced practical tests for the country's space mission.
Newspaper headline: Fatty on the frontier


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