China's Moon program intends to support a lunar sample return in 2017. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

China’s Moon program intends to support a lunar sample return in 2017.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

China’s powerful Long March 5 carrier rocket has been shipped from North China’s Tianjin port. The shipment signals a step toward a rehearsal of the projected 2017 liftoff of the Chang’e 5 lunar mission.

The booster has been designed by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

The first shakeout flight of the Long March 5 is slated for next year.

According to China’s Xinhua news agency, the Long March 5-boosted Chang’e 5 lunar mission will complete the last chapter in China’s three-step Moon program: orbiting, landing and sample return.

Complex mission

The Chang’e 5 mission is complex, one that will include automatic sampling of lunar material, launch the specimens from the Moon, then makes an automatic docking with a return stage high above the lunar surface, that then hauls the goods back to Earth.

As for the upcoming booster drill, it will be carried out in a launch site that involves both the carrier rocket and a probe, said the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

The Long March 5 will have a payload capacity of 14 tons to geostationary transfer orbit, the largest carrying capacity in China.

Long March 6 success

In other booster news from China, Xinhua also reports the successful test flight of the Long March 6.

Long March 6 on first test flight. Credit: Chinese Internet via SinoDefense

Long March 6 on first test flight.
Credit: Chinese Internet via SinoDefense

That rocket flew September 20 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north China’s Shanxi Province.

The new carrier rocket will be mainly used for the launch of micro-satellites, according to Chinese authorities. This first test flight of the rocket carried 20 small satellites into the space for space tests – marking a new record high for China in one space shot.

Notes the informative SinoDefense website, the new rocket fills a launch capacity gap in the existing Chang Zheng launch vehicle family – and is

in the same class as the European Space Agency’s Vega and the Russian Angara-1 boosters.

Environmentally friendly

Zhang Weidong, designer-in-chief at the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, said the new rocket also “reformed the way carrier rockets are tested and launched in China,” as reported by Xinhua.

The loading, testing and positioning of the Long March 6 was completed in a horizontal position, before it was lifted upright for launching, Zhang said.

According to Wang Jianshe of Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation, the Long March 6 is environmentally friendly. The engine uses liquefied oxygen and diesel that produce carbon dioxide and water.

“This won’t pollute the environment,” Wang said, as reported by China’s CCTV.

 

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