Segments of the first CZ-5 (Chang Zheng-5, or Long March 5) heavy-lift launch vehicle carried inside a specially-made oversized container arrived at the Port of Tianjin on Monday 22 August, ready to be loaded onto the rocket transport ship Yuanwang 21 for its one-week journey in the sea to the launch site on Hainan Island.
The CZ-5 launch vehicle for the maiden flight mission, carrying the serial number Y1, is scheduled for launch in October this year. The launcher will be fitted with a Yuanzheng-2 upper stage, as well as number of undisclosed payloads.
The CZ-5 has been developed by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT, or 1st Academy) of the China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation (CASC). Development of the launch vehicle officially began in October 2006. The fabrication of the vehicle has been carried out by the Tianjin Long March Space Rocket Manufacturing Company located in the east costal city of Tianjin.
The CZ-5 is 60 m in length, with a 5 m diameter core vehicle and four 3.35 m diameter strap-on boosters. The launch vehicle has a lift-off weight of 869 metric tons and can deliver 25 metric tons of payload to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO), or 14 metric tons of payload to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO), making it the same class as the U.S. Delta IV Heavy and Russian Angara A5.
Once operational, the CZ-5 will be used to deliver space station modules, lunar sample return mission, and Mars probe missions. It can also be used to deliver heavy geostationary telecommunications satellites and other commercial payload.
After decades of incremental improvements to its existing launch capabilities, the Chinese space programme is undergoing a major technological overhaul, which saw the construction of new spacecraft and rocket fabrication facilities in Tianjin and a new space launch centre in Hainan, as well as the introduction of an entire family of more capable launch vehicles burning non-toxic, non-polluting liquid propellants. Once fully operational, these new elements will greatly increase China’s future space capabilities.