China’s new rocket family seems to have a gap

China is developing a new family of rockets that will replace at least part of the current series of Long March 2, 3 and 4 space launchers.

I say “at least part of” because there seems to be a gap in the line-up. Long March 6, still under development by SAST in Shanghai, will be capable of launching 1 ton to an orbit of 600 km., SAST says. Long March 7, a product of CALT in Beijing, is designed for launching payloads of 10-20 tons to low Earth orbit.

Even allowing for greater throw weights to less than 600 km., there is clearly a big space between the two launchers. Yet CALT and SAST do not reject the suggestion that one day the new series will replace the old one.

The answer may be that the quoted Long March 6 payload is that of the minimum version of that rocket, whereas the biggest, with a full set of boosters, would approach Long March 7 capability.

CALT discussed Long March 7 plans with Aviation Week at Airshow China in Zhuhai this week. A report will appear in Aviation Week & Space Technology next week.


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