China successfully launched a Long March 8 rocket on Sunday morning at 11:06 a.m., aiming to place 22 new satellites in space. The undertaking, which was carried out from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in the country’s southern Hainan Province, has set a domestic record for the most spacecrafts launched by a single rocket.
The Long March 8 used for Sunday’s launch is a modified version of the medium-lift carrier rocket. Compared with the original model, the modified version does not have side boosters but can launch multiple satellites with different orbital requirements. The recent launch is the first flight of this particular model.
In addition, the Long March 8 uses non-toxic and pollution-free propellants. The whole rocket is 48 meters long with a takeoff weight of 198 tons. The Long March 8 combines the 3.35-meter diameter new-generation Long March 7 kerosene-liquid oxygen with a 3-meter diameter hydrolox from the older Long March 3A series. It can realize a carrying capacity of three tons in sun-synchronous orbit.
The 22 satellites in this commercial rideshare mission include the Hainan1-01 and 02, the Star Era-17 (Xingshidai-17), the Wenchang1-01 and 02, and the Taijing3-01. The satellites will be mainly used for commercial remote sensing services, marine environment monitoring, forest fire prevention and disaster mitigation.
The Long March 8 carrier rocket has strong adaptability and can meet the needs of multiple entities, including governmental and commercial users. It can launch three tons worth of satellites into low Earth orbit or medium Earth orbit. Such rockets are urgently needed by the market, especially to launch observation satellites.
Xiao Yun, chief commander of the rocket, said an assembly and test plant for the Long March 8 family is being built outside the Wenchang launch site. Once completed, it is expected to shorten the launch interval of the Long March 8 rocket to seven days, enabling 50 launches a year. Building an assembly and test plant nearby the launch site can save a series of steps and will greatly reduce the test cycle of the rocket at the launch site.