China’s Modified Long March 6 Rocket Succeeds in First Launch

At 17:50 on March 29, the modified Long March 6 carrier rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, successfully releasing the Pujiang-2 and Tiankun-2 satellites into sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). The rocket’s first flight mission was a complete success.

The modified Long March 6 carrier rocket uses non-polluting propellants and is equipped with solid strap-on boosters. It is designed specifically to launch sun-synchronous orbit satellites.

Hong Gang, president of the eighth research institute under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) and the commander-in-chief of the modified Long March 6 carrier rocket, made the following statement: “As China’s first ‘hybrid’ new generation of Long March Carrier Rockets, the modified Long March 6 carrier rocket made a successful debut flight, achieving a series of new technological breakthroughs such as solid strap-on boosters, and promoting the new generation of launch vehicles to move towards a more efficient, smarter and safer development path.”

This mission represents the 412th launch within the Long March series of carrier rockets. Before the modified Long March 6 model, there were only launch vehicles with solid boosters or liquid boosters as thrust in active service in China, and there was no precedent for a solid-liquid “hybrid version.”

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The total length of the rocket is about 50 meters, the take-off weight is about 530 tons, and the carrying capacity of the 700-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit is not less than 4 tons. The core boosters of the modified Long March 6 carrier rocket adopt liquid oxygen kerosene engines. Among them, the one-stage booster is propelled by two 120-ton-thrust engines burning liquid oxygen and kerosene, and the two-stage booster adopts a liquid oxygen kerosene engine with a thrust of 18 tons. Four engines powered by solid fuel are bundled in the core boosters, which provide nearly 70% of the thrust needed for the whole rocket.

The rocket realized the first “cross-border cooperation” of solid- and liquid-fueled engines in the field of launch vehicles in China. It also broke through key technologies such as the binding and separation of solid boosters, large concentrated force diffusion at the binding point, and the combined swing control of solid-liquid binding.