Tag Archives: Hainan

Catching up on launches and landings!

I’ve been remiss in blogging, so here’s a pile of videos to try to make it up. ¬†ūüėČ

First off, last Saturday China carried out the second launch of their new heavy-lift rocket, the CZ-5 (Long March 5), from their newest launch site on Hainan Island. ¬†CZ-5 is intended to support their deep space exploration aspirations, including eventual manned missions to the Moon, so a successful launch was very important. ¬†Unfortunately, it does not appear to have been successful. ¬†Initial indications suggest the first stage burned considerably longer than expected, which would suggest a possible engine failure resulting in the stage burning much longer in attempt to compensate, perhaps to propellant depletion. ¬†The second stage appears to have carried out a normal burn, but was clearly unable to make up the velocity shortfall. ¬†The upper stage and its seven-ton experimental commsat payload (Shijan-18) both reentered, most likely impacting in the Pacific Ocean. ¬†The strap-on stages of the CZ-5 operate on kerosene and LOX, while the core and upper stages burn LH2/LOX. ¬†The booster engines use a design licensed from NPO Energomash in Russia, the world’s undisputed leader in staged-combustion kerolox engines (it really is amazing how many vehicles around the world use their designs), while the cryogenic engines are domestically designed and produced.

Meanwhile, the first recycled SpaceX Dragon capsule completed its mission to the ISS. ¬†One of its payloads was the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA), an experiment to test a new type of solar array that is more robust than earlier roll-out designs (remember Hubble’s original arrays, which usually looked a bit twisted and wonky when deployed?) but more compact than rigid arrays. ¬†The experiment was almost a complete success, with the array generating lots of power. ¬†Unfortunately, retraction was unsuccessful, so the array had to be jettisoned in its deployed state.

The ROSA’s ride up also left the ISS, but in a more controlled fashion, and returned to Earth.

The CRS-11 spacecraft then made the first Dragon reentry at night.  Astronaut Jack Fisher photographed the plasma trail from orbit:

Rounding out the launches of the last few days is today’s launch of the tenth Falcon 9 of the year, placing Intelsat 35E into geosynchronous transfer orbit. ¬†Due to the size of the payload, this was flown as a fully expendable launch vehicle, with no grid fins and no excess propellant margin to carry out a reentry burn:

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China’s Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket makes its maiden flight

The Long March 5, a beefy new variant of the venerable Long March (Chang-Zheng) series, has completed its maiden flight with flying colors, lifting off from China’s new Wenchang¬†launch complex on Hainan Island. ¬†Long March 5 has a payload capacity of 25,000 kg to low Earth orbit (LEO), 14,000 kg to geosynchronous orbit (GEO), or 8,000 kg to trans-lunar injection (TLI). ¬†This puts it in rare territory — one of the most powerful rockets in operation today. ¬†It’s in the same class as the slightly more powerful Delta IV Heavy, and SpaceX’s upcoming Falcon Heavy (whose theoretical performance is expected to exceed Delta IV Heavy).

China developed this rocket specifically for their human space program; it’s powerful enough to place large modules into Earth orbit. ¬†It also positions them well for future¬†lunar and interplanetary missions. ¬†This is definitely an exciting time in spaceflight!

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China has test-flown a new manned spacecraft

China has test-flown a new manned spacecraft. ¬†It had no one in it; this was a test flight only. ¬†This was also the maiden flight of the Long March 7 rocket, launching from the brand-new Wenchang Satellite Launch Center¬†on Hainan Island, which will allow China to launch¬†from a lower latitude. ¬† The rocket performed flawlessly. ¬†The reentry module of the spacecraft, a scaled-down version of what will be flown later, is intriguing as it is a departure from their previous Soyuz-derived vehicles. ¬†Gone is the “headlamp” shape; it’s a truncated cone instead, like the vehicles under development in the US right now.

Launch:

Return of the reentry capsule:

 

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