Credit: CCTV


The fourth Long March-5 rocket, to be used to launch China’s first Mars exploration mission — the Tianwen-1 — was vertically transported to the launching area at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in south China’s Hainan Province on Friday.

A Long March-5 Y4 rocket was vertically transported to the launch area at Wenchang Space Launch Center in S China’s Hainan on Friday. Note the European (ESA), the French (CNES), Argentine (CONAE) and Austrian (FFG) space agency logos in addition to that of the China National Space Agency (CNSA).

Long March-5 Y4, is planned to be launched in late July or early August, according to the China National Space Administration. Speculation has it that liftoff is slated for July 23, the opening of the launch window.

China’s Xinhua news agency reports it took about two hours to vertically transport the large rocket to the launching area of the center Friday morning. Final examinations and tests will be conducted on the rocket before the launch.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space Screengrab

This is the first time the Long March-5 carrier rocket, currently China’s largest launch vehicle, will be put into “practical use” after three experimental launches, the Xinhua story adds. The rocket is expected to send the Tianwen-1 Mars probe into an Earth-Mars transfer orbit, which is also the first such mission to be carried out by China’s carrier rocket.

The Mars mission is indeed ambitious, aiming to complete orbiting, landing and roving in one mission, and to obtain scientific exploration data on the Red Planet.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space Screengrab


According to Li Benqi, command member for the Long March-5 Y4 rocket launching mission, in an interview with China Central Television (CCTV): “Testing for all the technical items on the rocket, the Mars rover and the launching area has been completed so far,” Li explained. “While the rocket is at the launching area, our preparations are focused on filling fuel into the rocket and ensuring a good final state of the rocket and the rover. Then we’ll enter the launching procedures.”

Ge Xiaochun, chief engineer, China National Space Administration told CCTV: “The Mars probe is the first step of China’s planetary exploration project. The coming launching mission has been highly recognized and supported by the international community.”

Ge said that “the vertical transport of the rocket to the launching area has shown that we have made good preparations for the launching mission. We will stick to the strict and careful working attitude in the coming days.”

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space Screengrab

Long Lehao, carrier rocket expert, China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, told CCTV: “The rocket will simultaneously carry the Mars orbiter, lander and rover into space. Such a comprehensive launching mission for Mars exploration will also be the first in the world, so we’re looking forward to it.”

China’s Mars landing regions.
Courtesy: James Head

Candidate landing site: Utopia Planitia

In a just published Nature Astronomy paper — “China’s first mission to Mars” – details about the mission are outlined, among them:

The Tianwen-1 probe has a mass (including fuel) of about 5 tons.

China’s Mars orbiter.
Courtesy: James Head

The orbiter will provide a relay communication link to the rover, while performing its own scientific observations for one Martian year. The orbit during the scientific observation stage is a polar elliptical orbit 165 miles x 746 miles (265 km × 12,000 kilometers).

The Tianwen-1 probe is expected to reach Mars around February 2021 and the scientific observation phase will start in April 2021.

China’s Mars rover.
Courtesy: James Head

The lander/rover will perform a soft landing on the Martian surface some 2–3 months after arrival of the spacecraft, with a candidate landing site in Utopia Planitia. It is the Martian region where the NASA Viking 2 lander touched down on September 3, 1976.

Scientific instruments

The roughly 530 pound (240 kilograms) solar-powered rover is nearly twice the mass of China’s Yutu lunar rovers, and is expected to be in operation for about 90 Martian days.

There are 13 scientific payloads in the Tianwen-1 mission in total.

The seven instruments on board the orbiter comprise two cameras, the Mars-Orbiting Subsurface Exploration Radar, Mars Mineralogy Spectrometer, Mars Magnetometer, Mars Ion and Neutral Particle Analyzer, and Mars Energetic Particle Analyzer.

The six instruments installed on the rover comprise the Multispectral Camera, Terrain Camera, Mars-Rover Subsurface Exploration Radar, Mars Surface Composition Detector, Mars Magnetic Field Detector, and Mars Meteorology Monitor.

China’s Mars mission elements.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Comprehensive mission

According to the paper’s authors, “Tianwen-1 is going to orbit, land and release a rover all on the very first try, and coordinate observations with an orbiter. No planetary missions have ever been implemented in this way. If successful, it would signify a major technical breakthrough. Scientifically, Tianwen-1 is the most comprehensive mission to investigate the Martian morphology, geology, mineralogy, space environment, and soil and water-ice distribution.”

To read the full Nature Astronomy paper — China’s first mission to Mars – go to:

Also, go to this CGTN video of the rocket roll out at:

One Response to “China Mars Mission: At the Launch Pad (Updated with Video, Photos)”

  • a says:

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis.
    It will always be interesting to read through content from other authors and practice something from their websites.

Leave a Reply