China’s Long March 7 rocket launched successfully for the first time this weekend, the second in a trio of new boosters the country will use to launch and supply its planned Tiangong-3 space station. The 53-meter-tall Long March 7 carried a number of small satellites into orbit as well as a subscale, dummy version of China’s next-generation crew capsule. The rocket is the middle child in the country’s new family of launchers, sitting between the heavier Long March 5 and lighter Long March 6.
Long March 7 – CZ-7
The Long March 7 was also launched from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, China’s fourth and southernmost launch site. Launching from nearer the equator means using less propellant, saving the country roughly $6 million each time it blasts off.
China launched its first uncrewed space lab, Tiangong-1, in 2011, and plans to assemble and launch a 60-tonne upgrade, Tiangong-3, by 2022. China plans to launch its Tiangong-2 space lab later this year, before starting construction of a full-blown space station in 2018.
First flight of the CZ-5 rocket is scheduled for September 2016 from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan island
Long March 5 – CZ-5
The Long March 7 is the medium-lift variant of a new generation rocket family that includes the heavier-lift Long March 5 and the small-mid cargo Long March 6. The structure will be based on the reliable, man-rated Long March 2F rocket. It will inherit the 3.35m-diameter core stage and 2.25m-diameter liquid rocket boosters.
China will also be switching from russian Soyuz style capsules to something like the American Apollo capsules.
The goal is to build a more cost-effective and less hazardous rocket family to replace today’s Long March 2 and eventually the Long March 3. It will be capable of placing a 5,500 kilograms (12,100 lb) payload into a sun-synchronous orbit.
SOURCES- Xinhau, Wikipedia, The Verge, New Scientist