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Long March-5 is China's biggest ever carrier rocket


11-03-2016 12:46 BJT

China is rapidly advancing its space program, and the country's latest heavy-lift carrier rocket, the Long March-5, is a crucial part of its strategy. CCTV reporter Ge Yunfei talked to some insiders at the launch center to find out more about this piece of hardware.

The Wenchang launch center in south China

The Wenchang launch center in south China's Hainan province will see the country's largest carrier rocket, the Long March-5, blasting off to space in early November. The rocket was transported to the launch area last week after finishing finaly assembly and test. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/Wei Dongxu,Qiao Quanxing]

The Long March-5, China’s biggest ever carrier rocket, is now awaiting its maiden mission on the country’s southern island Hainan Province. It can carry up to 25 tons — that’s around the same weight as 16 cars — to low earth orbit. It’s 57 meters tall, and weighs about 800 tons itself.

"The Long March-Five is comparable to its international counterparts, including in the domains of booster engines, payload levels in low and high earth orbit," Yan Zheng, power system engineer of Long March-5, said.

Before China, only the United States and Europe had similar power systems. With a three-stage, five-meter-diameter, a dual-engine primary core, the Long March-5 is the widest among all the rockets developed by China. In fact, it is so wide, it could not be transported by the current railways system to the inland launch center.

"We call it 'Fat Five'. It goes beyond the current rail transportation limits of 3.35 meters, so it has to be transferred by sea to a coastal launch site," Hu Xudong, commander of Long March-5 Carrier Rocket Launch Mission, said.

Completed in 2014, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center is the only launch center near China's coast. But the sheer size of Long March-5 means that it's like a new age for China's space program.

"The liquid propellant consumption of the Long March-5 is tenfold more than previous rockets. Just in the fueling process, we have to invent many new technologies and devices like the low-temperature valve of mass flow and the new liquid oxygen pump," Zhang Qing, Fueling Engineer of Long March-5, said.

Once in operation, its highest-profile mission will be launching the core module of China's permanent space station — Tiangong, as well as the lunar and Mars missions.

The space launch was a global high-profile event, but for the thousands of engineers working behind the scenes, it's years of dedication, separation from families, and loneliness in hard work. But they say, it's all worth it.

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