China's carrier rocket sea launch enhances load capability: analysts

Global Times
Huang Panyue

China will launch its carrier rocket from the sea for the first time in 2018, which would allow China to narrow the gap in sea launches.

The Long March-11, a solid propellant rocket developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), will be launched for the first time from the sea this year, Science and Technology Daily reported Tuesday.

"To launch the rocket from places at a lower latitude can save energy and fuel used for rocket launches, and can enhance the load capacity of the carrier rocket at the same time," Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The Long March-11 was successfully launched in its maiden mission in 2015 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu, the Xinhua News Agency reported previously.

The rocket is capable of carrying multiple micro satellites, Song said.

Since the Long March-11 is solid propelled, its launch would have fewer steps compared to liquid fueled rockets. Its launch is also expected to be conducted in the high seas area close to the equator, he said.

The Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern province of Hainan is the southernmost launch center among the four sites in China. Launching from the sea becomes a choice if an even lower latitude is needed, Science and Technology Daily reported, citing Tang Yagang, deputy director of the Department of Astronautics of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. "The launch will be a chance for China to narrow the gap in sea launches," Tang said.

Launching from the sea will be influenced by the wind and waves that could affect the launch process, where a special control system is required, he said.

Song said the launch of China's heavy-lift carrier rocket, the Long March-5 Y2, failed on July 2, 2017 because of a thrust issue.

"The problem has been identified, and similar mistakes will be avoided. China has acquired the ability to conduct rocket launches from the sea, and the Long March-11 also has the ability to adjust its direction even when the platform is influenced by waves and wind," Song said. "It is almost certain that the launch will succeed."

Russia's Sea Launch, a floating launch site, was established in 1995. The project was meant to place rockets along the equator, reported.

The report said that the carrier rocket of Zenit-3SL can be launched from the pad, and the most recent Zenit launch from the Sea Launch was carried out in 2014.

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