Long March 5

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A CZ-5 at the Wenchang Cosmodrome (2017)

Long March 5 , LM-5 for short ( Chinese 長征 五號 / 长征 五号, Pinyin Chángzhēng Wǔháo , CZ-5 for short ), is a family of heavy launch vehicles manufactured by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation in the People's Republic of China . The first CZ-5 launched on November 3, 2016 from the Wenchang Cosmodrome , the only spaceport designed for this rocket.


As early as 1986, in the space division of the 863 program for the promotion of high technology in section 863-204 (space transport systems), the development of a heavy launch vehicle was planned. After the establishment of the "Ministry of Aerospace Industry" (航空 航天 工业 部, Hángkōng Hángtiān Gōngyè Bù ), a predecessor organization of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation , concrete preliminary planning began in 1988. The experts found the following problems with the previous launchers:

Three serious accidents at the Xichang Cosmodrome in the mid-1990s made the poor reliability of the old rockets visible. China also feared that the European Ariane 5 as a provider of commercial satellite launches would cause it to lose touch on the world market. In 2000, the project to develop the “ liquid rocket engine 100” (液体 火箭 发动机, Yètǐ Huǒjiàn Fādòngjī , hence “YF-100” for short) started, which was supposed to deliver a thrust of 1200 kN at sea level with a diergolen fuel combination of rocket kerosene and liquid oxygen . This engine was intended for the boosters of the heavy-duty missile. In May 2001 the Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense began planning the actual missile. and in January 2002 approved the development of the YF-77 rocket engine, which should run on liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen and deliver a thrust of 500 kN at sea level.

In 2002, Zhu Senyuan (朱森 元, * 1930), from the Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology , the head of the expert group on rocket engines and heavy launch vehicles in the 863 program, proposed a modular system in which, according to the motto “One family, two engines, three Modules “should be composed of a few basic building blocks rocket variants for different purposes. A first model of such a launch vehicle with a diameter of 5 m and side boosters was shown at the Zhuhai International Air and Space Exhibition organized by the State Council of the People's Republic of China . The three modules were:

  • A rocket with a diameter of 5 m and a liquid oxygen / liquid hydrogen propulsion system, called "H-5" because of the English hydrogen for "hydrogen" and the diameter
  • A rocket with a diameter of 3.35 m and a liquid oxygen / rocket kerosene drive, called "K-3" because of the kerosene fuel and the diameter
  • A rocket with a diameter of 2.25 m and a liquid oxygen / rocket kerosene drive, called "K-2" because of the kerosene fuel and the diameter

The two engines were:

  • YF-77 with 500 kN thrust at sea level and liquid oxygen / liquid hydrogen as fuel
  • YF-100 with 1200 kN thrust at sea level and liquid oxygen / rocket kerosene as fuel

In a first step, a heavy launch vehicle like the one shown in Zhuhai was to be built from the three modules, and in a next step a medium and a small launch vehicle with a diameter of 3.35 m. These rockets were supposed to form a family with which payloads of 1.5–25 t could be carried in a near-earth orbit and 1.5–14 t in geosynchronous transfer orbits . The modular design reduced development costs, and a missile with only one or two stages was less likely to malfunction than a missile design with three stages.

Zhu Senyuan's basic idea has been adapted over and over again. In April 2003 , Ma Zhibin (马志滨) and several colleagues from the Academy for Launch Vehicle Technology published a diagram in which the small version of the launch vehicle had a 3.35 m diameter stage and a hydrogen engine, which is why it was called "H-3" has been. The latter variant was used again. In the version of the plan, which was approved by the State Council of the People's Republic of China on August 8, 2006 , there were a total of 6 variants of the rocket, numbered from A to F, all of which were equipped with a core module of 5 m in diameter, plus various boosters -Combinations, from 4 × 2.25 m to 2 × 2.25 m plus 2 × 3.35 m up to 4 × 3.35 m. According to the plan approved in 2006, two of the two were used for the second stage in the larger variants The third stage of the Changzheng 3A took over oxygen / hydrogen liquid thrusters of the type YF-75, with vacuum thrust increased from 78 to 88 kN and now designated as YF-75D. The development and construction of the engines was entrusted to the Academy of Liquid Rocket Engine Technology in Xi'an , the boosters to the Shanghai Academy of Space Technology , and the core modules of the Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology , which also had the overall direction of the project. All three academies are subsidiaries of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation . The chief designer Xu Shenghua (徐盛华, * 1939), who had been involved in the preliminary planning for the rocket since January 2001 , had already given up his post to Li Dong (李东, * 1967) in January 2006 .

Until then, the rocket was only known as the “new generation launch vehicle” (新一代 运载火箭). This model no longer had much in common with the old Changzheng missiles. But since "Changzheng" or "Long March" was a brand name introduced in 1970 , the Chinese government decided in 2007 to name the new rocket family "Long March 5" or "Changzheng 5" (长征 五号). The first launch of a Changzheng 5 rocket took place on November 3, 2016.


The following components were used in the variants of the rocket built so far:

1st stage

Bypass flow process (here with a common turbine for both pumps)

The first stage, also known as "H-5-1" because of the hydrogenium engines and their diameter, uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as fuel, which together make up almost 90% of the total weight of the stage at 165.3 t. From bottom to top, it consists of a base piece on which the two YF-77 engines are mounted, a large hydrogen tank and a smaller oxygen tank, as well as the connector to the next stage, which contains the stage separation mechanism. Since liquid oxygen has a temperature of −183 ° C and liquid hydrogen −253 ° C, the tanks are surrounded by an insulating layer that is almost 3 cm thick. The tanks were manufactured from an aluminum-copper alloy using the friction stir welding technique that is particularly suitable for this material . In order to save weight, the load distribution grille of the step (the upper attachment of the booster engages the separating piece between the hydrogen and oxygen tanks) was covered with an outer skin only 1.2 mm to 2 mm thick.

While the booster YF-100 engine, which was developed from 2005, caused great difficulties at the beginning - of the first four engines manufactured, two exploded on the test bench, two caught fire - the development of the bypass flow engines of the first stage went largely without problems. In this type of engine, part of the fuel is burned in a separate combustion chamber and the resulting hot gas drives two turbines, which in turn drive the fuel pumps for the actual rocket motor. The relaxed hot gas from the turbines is released into the environment through two exhaust pipes next to the thrust nozzle. When the rocket was launched for the second time on July 2, 2017, one of the engines suffered a problem with the exhaust system of a turbine due to the difficult temperature conditions, which led to a loss of thrust 346 seconds after the launch and the rocket to crash.

On October 12, 2017, the engineers reconstructed the course of the accident and found the fault. After developing and discussing various approaches, the decision was made in April 2018 to redesign the turbine. Five more guide vanes were added and the material for the outlet guide wheel , which removes its rotational swirl from the outflowing hot gas, has been changed from stainless steel to a nickel- based superalloy . This initially meant that the stocks had to be scrapped, and on the other hand, the new material was much more difficult to process. For the latter problem that had Chinese University of Petroleum (East China) , the solution in the form of a developed there spark exploding arc -Hochgeschwindigkeits- CNC milling machine.

A few months later, the workshops at Factory 211 (the main facility of the Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing) had manufactured new exhaust idlers. During the test on the test bench of the Academy for Liquid Rocket Engine Technology in Shaanxi on November 30, 2018, however, a malfunction occurred again. The turbine was redesigned one more time. The first test of the new version took place on March 29, 2019. However, when analyzing the recorded measurement data, the engineers noticed an abnormal vibration frequency on April 4, 2019. Since the instruction had been issued that the rocket could only start when there was “not the slightest hint of doubt” (不 带 一丝 疑虑 上天), further changes were made to the engine. These were completed by July 2019 and the engine had successfully passed a dozen large-scale tests on the test bench. The engines for the real rocket were brought to Tianjin, from where on October 22, 2019 the two rocket carriers of the Jiangyin track tracking ship base set off for Hainan with the components of the rocket packed in containers. Between the false start on July 2, 2017 and the successful next attempt on December 27, 2019, the rocket was out of service for 908 days.

2nd stage

Expander process

The second stage, similar to the first stage also called H-5-2, also uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as fuel for the two YF-75D engines, which operate according to the expander process , where the hydrogen pumped through the cooling jacket of the combustion chamber is caused by the heat evaporates and drives the drive turbines of the fuel feed pumps before it is burned with the oxygen in the combustion chamber. The tanks made of the same AlCu wrought alloy (2219) as in the first stage have a diameter of 5 m for the hydrogen and 3.35 m for the oxygen. In contrast to the first stage, the hydrogen tank is arranged above the oxygen tank. In addition to the two main engines that can be ignited multiple times and - like the engines of the first stage - can be swiveled 4 ° from the vertical, the second stage also has 18 attitude control engines operated with gaseous oxygen (GOX) and kerosene - a mixture known in China as "DT3" Type FY-85B.

Control unit

The control unit, housed in a slightly conical structure made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic , is located on the actual rocket, in both single-stage and two-stage versions, and forms the transition between the actual rocket with a diameter of 5 m and the payload fairing with a diameter of 5.2 m and the flight the missile controls and monitors.

Payload support frame

Already in the payload fairing, on top of the control unit, is the payload support frame that tapers towards the top, like the control unit in a sandwich construction made of two cover layers made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic with an aluminum honeycomb structure in between. On top of this unit, the payload is attached directly to lower orbits, or when multiple satellites or probes are transported into space simultaneously for higher orbits with an attached to the actual payload apogee type Yuanzheng 2 therebetween. In order to transfer as few vibrations as possible to the payload during the flight of the rocket, which could damage it, the payload support frame is equipped with shock and vibration dampers .

Payload fairing

There are currently two payload fairings of different lengths available, with a length of 12.27 m (for the Changzheng 5E) and 20.5 m (for the Changzheng 5B). Both variants have a diameter of 5.2 m. Inside the shells there is space for payloads with a diameter of up to 4.5 m (the modules of the planned space station have a diameter of 4.2 m). The foremost tip of the payload fairing is made of fiberglass-reinforced plastic . The subsequent, egg-shaped part consists of two cover layers made of carbon fiber reinforced epoxy resin with polymethacrylimide foam (PMI foam) in between. Compared to a honeycomb grid made of aluminum, this material has a higher rigidity , while at the same time it can be easily brought into the desired shape during production, which reduces costs by 20 to 25%. The front section of the column-shaped part of the payload fairing then again consists of an epoxy resin / aluminum grid sandwich material, while the rear section consists of an aluminum alloy. Since the payload fairing heats up strongly due to air friction, a heat-insulating layer made of a composite material is glued on to the outside . The small version of the payload fairing weighs 2.4 t, the large version around 4 t. The payload fairing in the form of one by Kármán-Ogive consists of two halves in both variants, which are joined together along the longitudinal axis. For reasons of reliability and in order not to endanger the payload, the usual pyro bolts are not used, but twist locks. After reaching a certain height, the twist locks are opened and the payload fairing splits into two halves, which are then thrown off.


Mainstream process

So far, only type K-3-1 boosters have been used, i.e. with kerosene (and liquid oxygen) as fuel and a 3.35 m diameter. This is a further development of the Changzheng 3B launcher , which was equipped with two YF-100 engines . These engines burn a mixture of rocket kerosene and liquid oxygen using the main flow process. The kerosene and part of the oxygen are first partially burned in a small combustion chamber, the so-called "pre-burner", creating a hot gas flow that still contains large excess quantities of unconverted kerosene, which first drives the drive turbine for the fuel pumps before it is burned with the rest of the oxygen in the main combustion chamber and here at sea level - the Wenchang Cosmodrome is located directly on the beach - a thrust of 1188 kN is developed. With two engines that is 2376 kN per booster, and since four boosters are attached to the rocket, 9504 kN take-off thrust, which comes from the boosters alone. Together with the two YF-77 engines of the first stage, the rocket has a take-off thrust of 10,524 kN.

In the 27.6 m high booster, the kerosene tank is located above the engine unit, with the slightly larger oxygen tank above it. On top of the booster sits a tip that is beveled on the outside at an angle of 15 ° (while the inside lies flat against the rocket). The tip, which is strongly heated by air friction, is made as a semi-rigid framework that is covered with a film made of heat-resistant glass fiber reinforced plastic. Since the weight of the actual rocket - more than 200 t after refueling - only hangs on the four boosters, their actual body and the upper and lower attachment to the rocket are relatively robust.

A certain problem arises from the division of labor in manufacturing. The boosters developed by Institute 805 of the Shanghai Academy of Space Technology are manufactured in its factory 149 in the Minhang district and then first transported north to the Tianjin Economic Development Zone , where they are in the workshop for final assembly and testing of Changzheng Raketenbau GmbH , a subsidiary of the Chinese Academy for launch vehicle technology, must be adapted to the actual rocket and tested before all components are brought to the island of Hainan , in the far south of China, by rocket freighters two months before the launch . If there are delays in the launch of a rocket, such as in 2017, when the launch of the Chang'e 5 lunar probe planned for that year was canceled due to the missile's false start on July 2, the boosters are stored in Tianjin for a long time - in said one Case for 27 months. Plastic parts in particular, such as the shrink tubing on the electrical plug connections or the heat-insulating foam around the oxygen tank, age during this time and must be carefully checked and replaced if necessary.


The development priorities and missile names have been changed several times. Around 2011, the first four variants, originally designated A to D, were given code names after the Chinese celestial trunks , which functionally correspond to the Roman numerals in Europe. The original CZ-5E was then renamed “Changzheng 5” without a suffix. At the end of December 2019, after the launch of the third rocket in the series on December 27, 2019, the original names were returned to. Here is the Changzheng 5 family as of December 2020:

  • The CZ-5 (长征 五号) consists of an H-5-1 first stage with two YF-77 engines, an H-5-2 second stage with two YF-75D engines and four K-3 boosters -1 with two YF-100 engines each. The first and second stages are operated with liquid hydrogen and oxygen , the boosters with rocket kerosene (RP-1) and liquid oxygen. The CZ-5 can carry up to 14 t of payload in geosynchronous orbits inclined towards the equator (IGSO), 8 t in a transfer orbit to the moon and 5 t in a transfer orbit to Mars. So far, the rocket has always been used with an additional kick stage of the Yuanzheng 2 type, which, mounted on the payload, acted as a third rocket stage and brought the satellite as an apogee motor from the transfer orbit into the final geostationary orbit . The YZ-2 kick stage has two YF-50D engines, which use the hypergolic (self-igniting) fuel combination dinitrogen tetroxide and UDMH .
  • The second completed variant is the CZ-5B (长征 五号 乙), the development of which began in 2011. It consists of the first stage only and uses four K-3-1 boosters. The transport capacity of the CZ-5B for low earth orbits is 25 t. On May 5, 2020, the rocket successfully completed its maiden flight, during which a prototype of the manned spacecraft of the new generation , an experimental re-entry capsule and other experimental payloads were carried into orbit.

The development of the other, originally planned variants will not be pursued further for the time being.

Technical specifications

model CZ-5B CZ-5
stages 1 2
height 53.66 m 56.97 m
diameter 5 m (17.3 m with boosters)
Takeoff mass 837 t 867 t
Start thrust 10,524 kN
payload 25 t LEO 15 t SSO
14 t IGSO
8 t LTO (moon transfer orbit)
5 t MTO (Mars transfer orbit)
1st stage (H-5-1)
height 33.2 m
diameter 5 m
Takeoff mass 186.9 t
Engine 2 × YF-77 with 700 kN vacuum thrust each and 520 seconds burn time
fuel 165.3 t of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen
Booster (4 × K-3-1)
height 27.6 m
diameter 3.35 m
Takeoff mass 156.6 t
Engine 2 × YF-100 with 1340 kN vacuum thrust each and 173 seconds burn time
fuel 142.8 t of liquid oxygen and rocket kerosene
2nd stage (H-5-2), only with CZ-5
height 11.5 m
diameter 5 m
Takeoff mass 36 t
Engine 2 × YF-75D with 88.26 kN vacuum thrust each and 700 seconds burn time
fuel 29.1 t of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen
3rd stage ( YZ-2 ), optional kick stage of the CZ-5
height 2.2 m
diameter 3.8 m
Engine 2 × YF-50D with 6.5 kN thrust each and up to 1105 seconds burn time
fuel Dinitrogen tetroxide and 1,1-dimethylhydrazine

Security Risks of the CZ-5B

The CZ-5B differs from all other large rockets in use in that the payload is brought from the main stage directly into earth orbit. As a result, this stage initially remains in a low orbit until it falls back towards the ground as a result of the braking effect of the high atmosphere. A control of the flight path is not possible, braking maneuvers for a controlled re-entry into the atmosphere are not provided. A crash of rubble onto inhabited areas at an unpredictable time is accepted.

With a length of 33 m and a diameter of 5 m, this rocket stage has been the largest spacecraft that enters the earth's atmosphere since the crash of the Soviet space station Salyut 7 in 1991. The rocket stage with a curb weight of 21 t is (as usual) constructed in lightweight construction, with a 1.2 to 2 mm thin aluminum skin over a load distribution grille. Nonetheless, some components, such as the 2.7 t drive module with two YF-77 engines, are quite massive and do not burn up easily when you re- enter .

During the first flight of the CZ-5B in May 2020, the main stage was initially in an elliptical orbit with an apogee of 270 km and a perigee of 152 km. The re-entry took place after six days west of Africa. A metal piece ten meters long that had fallen from the sky was found in a kapok tree near a village in the Lacs district of Ivory Coast . The rocket stage had flown over New York City about 15 to 20 minutes earlier , causing discomfort among American commentators.

When launched for the second time in April 2021, the rocket's main stage initially reached an elliptical earth orbit measuring 170 × 372 km. The re-entry of unannealed debris is expected for May 2021.

Start list

Performed starts

This is a full list of CZ-5 launches as of May 1, 2021.

No. Time
( UTC )
Missile type Launch site payload Type of payload Payload mass Remarks
1 November 3, 2016
12:43 PM
CZ-5 / YZ-2 Wenchang 101 Shijian 17th Experimental satellite Success , first flight of the Langer Marsch 5
2 July 2, 2017
11:23 am
CZ-5 Wenchang 101 Shijian 18th Communications satellite about 7 t False start due to turbo pump defect
3 December 27, 2019
12:45 PM
CZ-5 / YZ-2 Wenchang 101 Shijian 20th Experimental satellite 8 t success
4th May 5, 2020
CZ-5B Wenchang 101 New generation spaceship and other payloads unmanned spaceship, experimental payloads Success of the first flight of the Langer Marsch 5B
5 July 23, 2020
4:41 am
CZ-5 Wenchang 101 Tianwen-1 Mars orbiters, lander and rover 5 t success
6th Nov 23, 2020
8:30 PM
CZ-5 Wenchang 101 Chang'e-5 Lunar orbiters and lunar lander 8.2 t success
7th Apr 29, 2021
3:23 am
CZ-5B Wenchang 101 Tianhe Space station module 22.5 t success

Planned launches

Last updated: April 29, 2021

No Time
( UTC )
Missile type Launch site payload Type of payload Payload mass Remarks
May / June 2022 CZ-5B Wenchang 101 Wentian Space station module 22 t

See also

Web links

Commons : Long March 5 (rocket)  - Collection of images

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