China’s carrier rocket Long March-8 makes maiden flight

WENCHANG, Hainan (Xinhua) – China’s new medium-lift carrier rocket Long March-8 made its maiden flight yesterday, sending five satellites into planned orbit, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

The rocket blasted off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of southern China’s island province of Hainan at 12.37pm (Beijing Time).

The Long March-8 rocket has a total length of 50.3 metres, with a takeoff mass of 356 tonnes. It can carry a payload of at least 4.5 tonnes to a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 700 km.

The rocket fills the gap in China’s launch capability to the sun-synchronous orbit from three tonnes to 4.5 tonnes, and is of great significance for accelerating the upgrading of launch vehicles, according to the CNSA.

The rocket was developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

China’s new medium-lift carrier rocket Long March-8 blasts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China’s Hainan Province. PHOTO: XINHUA

It has a 3.35-metre-diameter first stage, a three-metre-diameter second stage, a 4.2-metre-diameter fairing, and two 2.25-metre-diameter strap-on boosters.

It adopts technologies used in the Long March-5 and Long March-7 rockets, and uses non-toxic and non-polluting propellants.

The rocket will enrich China’s launch vehicle variety and help expand the country’s aerospace activities, according to the CALT.

It will promote the upgrading of China’s medium-sized launch vehicles and satisfy the needs of high-density launch missions for medium and low-orbit satellites, said Chief Commander of the rocket Xiao Yun.