Long March 12 to debut this year

2024-02-27 09:22:42China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

China has developed a new type of carrier rocket that is expected to make its debut flight this year, according to a designer.

Zeng Wenhua, a structural designer at the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, said on Monday that the research and development stage of the Long March 12, the latest model in the Long March family, has been completed at the academy, a subsidiary of State-owned conglomerate China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

Assembly and testing of the first Long March 12 rocket is underway at the academy, she said, adding that the maiden flight has been scheduled to take place this year at the Hainan International Commercial Aerospace Launch Center in Wenchang, Hainan province. The center is under construction and is expected to start formal operations in June.

The Long March 12 will become the first Chinese rocket with a diameter of 3.8 meters — most Chinese rockets have a diameter of 3.35 meters — and will have two stages. It will be more than 60 meters tall, Zeng said.

A wider body means the rocket can contain more propellants than 3.35-meter-wide models, giving it greater carrying capacity, she said.

She said the rocket's medium-sized body would allow it to be conveniently transported by rail to China's inland launch centers.

Propelled by six liquid oxygen-kerosene-fueled engines, the model will be capable of transporting spacecraft with a combined weight of about 10 metric tons to a low-Earth orbit or six tons of satellites to a typical sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 700 kilometers, Zeng said.

"The Long March 12 incorporates a number of new technologies and will feature high reliability and multiple functions," she said.

"Its service will extensively improve our country's capability to send spacecraft to a sun-synchronous orbit and deploy multisatellite networks in low orbits."

Zeng said a major new feature of the rocket is that it will have an automatic ignition-malfunction detection system.

"The system will be able to detect any anomaly after the rocket is ignited and will cease the launch sequence and prevent the vehicle from lifting off by use of a special tether device," Zeng said, noting the Long March 12 will be the first Chinese rocket equipped with such a system.

In addition to the Long March 12, the Long March 6C, a new variant in the Shanghai academy's Long March 6 series, is also scheduled to make its first flight this year.

The two-stage variant will mainly be used to transport small and mid-sized satellites to sun-synchronous orbits, said Yu Yansheng, one of its chief designers.


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