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UPDATED: November 26, 2014 NO. 48 NOVEMBER 27, 2014
A New Window to Space
China's first coastal launch site is ready for blastoff
By Yin Pumin

According to Long, a vehicle lifting off from the Wenchang launch center would be able to carry 7.4 percent more than one lifting off from Xichang launch center, which is 27 degrees north of the equator. With China's current rockets, that would mean carrying 300 kg more in cargo.

Meanwhile, the coastal location of the launch site allows rocket engines to be easily transported from their manufactories in north China's Tianjin Municipality to the center by ship, which allows a booster of much larger sizes to be launched from the site. "In contrast, all the other three launch centers in China can only receive engines by rail, which limits the size of the rocket to 3.35 meters in diameter," said Pang Zhihao, a senior researcher with the China Academy of Space Technology.

According to Pang, because of the limitations imposed by railway tunnels, China's current launch vehicles tend to be tall and slim. "A coastal launch site can accept much larger and more powerful engines capable of carrying much larger payloads. In the future, domestic rockets could be shorter and broader, which will make them easier to control in flight and, therefore, more reliable," Pang said.

As the new launch center faces the sea to the south and east, there is also no danger of debris from launch vehicles falling into residential areas, Pang added.

"We will most likely accomplish human treks to the moon around 2025, and the mission will depart from Wenchang," Long told the media.

According to Pang, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center is an ideal site for the launch of the Long March CZ-5 rocket, China's most powerful rocket, which is being developed. "The Long March CZ-5 rocket can be transported to the center by sea, which is impossible for the other three launch centers located in landlocked regions," he said.

The Long March CZ-5 rocket will be mainly used for China's manned space station components and has the capacity to carry a 20-ton payload to near-Earth orbit, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. It will also be used in the country's moon exploration program.

According to the People's Daily report, the Long March CZ-5 carrier rocket is planned to be launched from the new center next year.

Ye Peijian, chief designer of the lunar probe for China's Chang'e Project, said Chang'e-5, the nation's fifth lunar probe, will be launched from the center in 2017. It is expected to send a lunar rock sample back to Earth.

Email us at: yinpumin@bjreview.com

The Other Three Launch Centers

- The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center

Named after the northwestern city of Jiuquan in Gansu Province, the center was founded in 1958. It is China's earliest space launch base, where most of the country's space launches and tests have been conducted. At an elevation of 1,000 meters, the launch center is mainly used to send experimental and applications satellites to low and medium orbits with large orbital inclination angles. Over the past 56 years, the launch center has successfully sent around 50 satellites and seven spacecraft into space, including 10 milestone launches such as China's first satellite in 1970, first recoverable satellite in 1975, the first unmanned spacecraft in 1999 and the first manned spacecraft in 2003. In 2011, China's first space lab module Tiangong-1 was also launched in Jiuquan and completed the docking with spacecraft Shenzhou-8, -9 and -10 in the following two years.

- The Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center

Situated in Kelan County of north China's Shanxi Province, the center was founded in March 1966 and put into operation in 1968. Hemmed in by mountains in all directions, the launch center stands at an elevation of 1,500 meters. With a relatively arid climate, the center is considered the ideal site for launching solar-synchronous satellites. In late 1968, the center successfully conducted the full-distance testing of the first-generation medium-range rocket. In 1988 and 1990, the center launched China-made meteorological satellites with Long March CZ-4 rockets.

- The Xichang Satellite Launch Center

The center is located in the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture of southwest China's Sichuan Province. At an elevation of about 1,500 meters, the center is designed mainly to launch powerful-thrust rockets and geo-stationary satellites. The center has two launch pads: one for the launch of geo-stationary communication satellites and meteorological satellites by Long March CZ-3 rockets and the other for the launch of Long March CZ-2 strap-on launch vehicles and the Long March CZ-3 series rockets. On July 16, 1990, China's first Long March CZ-2 strap-on launch vehicle successfully blasted off from Xichang, sending a Pakistani scientific experimental satellite and a Chinese satellite into respective orbits.

(Source: Xinhua News Agency)

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