Long March (rocket family)

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Changzheng rockets
Traditional Chinese長征系列運載火箭
Simplified Chinese长征系列运载火箭

The Long March rockets is a family of expendable launch system rockets operated by the China National Space Administration (CNSA). Development and design falls under the auspices of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CAST). In English, the rockets are abbreviated as LM- for export and CZ- within China, as "Chang Zheng" (长征) means Long March in Chinese pinyin. The rockets are named after the Long March of Chinese history (1949).


China used the Long March 1 rocket to launch its first satellite, Dong Fang Hong 1 (lit. "The East is Red 1"), into Low Earth orbit on 24 April 1970, becoming the fifth nation to achieve independent launch capability. Early launches had an inconsistent record, focusing on the launching of Chinese satellites. The Long March 1 was quickly replaced by the Long March 2 family of launchers.

Entry into commercial launch market[edit]

After the U.S. Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed in 1986, a growing commercial backlog gave China the chance to enter the international launch market. In September 1988, U.S. President Ronald Reagan agreed to allow U.S satellites to be launched on Chinese rockets.[1] AsiaSat 1, which had originally been launched by the Space Shuttle and retrieved by another Space Shuttle after a failure, was launched by the Long March 3 in 1990 as the first foreign payload on a Chinese rocket.

However, major setbacks occurred in 1992–1996. The Long March 2E was designed with a defective payload fairing, which collapsed when faced with the rocket's excessive vibration. After just seven launches, the Long March 2E destroyed the Optus B2 and Apstar 2 satellites and damaged AsiaSat 2.[2][3] The Long March 3B also experienced a catastrophic failure in 1996, veering off course shortly after liftoff and crashing into a nearby village. At least 6 people were killed on the ground, and the Intelsat 708 satellite was also destroyed.[4] A Long March 3 also experienced a partial failure in August 1996 during the launch of Chinasat-7.

United States embargo on Chinese launches[edit]

See also International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and specifically the section on satellite components.

The involvement of United States companies in the Apstar 2 and Intelsat 708 investigations caused great controversy in the United States. In the Cox Report, the United States Congress accused Space Systems/Loral and Hughes of transferring information that would improve the design of Chinese rockets and ballistic missiles.[5] Although the Long March was allowed to launch its commercial backlog, the United States Department of State has not approved any satellite export licenses to China since 1998. ChinaSat 8, which had been scheduled for launch in April 1999 on a Long March 3B rocket,[6] was placed in storage, sold to the Singapore company ProtoStar, and finally launched on a European rocket Ariane 5 in 2008.[5]

From 2005 to 2012, Long March rockets launched ITAR-free satellites made by the European company Thales Alenia Space.[7] However, Thales Alenia was forced to discontinue its ITAR-free satellite line in 2013 after the United States State Department fined a United States company for selling ITAR components.[8] Thales Alenia Space had long complained that "every satellite nut and bolt" was being ITAR-restricted, and the European Space Agency (ESA) accused the United States of using ITAR to block exports to China instead of protecting technology.[9] In 2016, an official at the United States Bureau of Industry and Security confirmed that "no U.S.-origin content, regardless of significance, regardless of whether it is incorporated into a foreign-made item, can go to China". The European aerospace industry is working on developing replacements for United States satellite components.[10]

Return to success[edit]

After the failures of 1992–1996, the troublesome Long March 2E was withdrawn from the market. Design changes were made to improve the reliability of Long March rockets. From October 1996 to April 2009, the Long March rocket family delivered 75 consecutive successful launches, including several major milestones in space flight:

The Long March rockets have subsequently maintained an excellent reliability record. Since 2010, Long March launches have made up 15–25% of all space launches globally. Growing domestic demand has maintained a healthy manifest. International deals have been secured through a package deal that bundles the launch with a Chinese satellite, circumventing the United States embargo.[11]


The Long March is China's primary expendable launch system family. The Shenzhou spacecraft and Chang'e lunar orbiters are also launched on the Long March rocket. The maximum payload for LEO is 25,000 kilograms (CZ-5B), the maximum payload for GTO is 14,000 kg (CZ-5). The next generation rocket Long March 5 variants will offer more payload in the future.


Long March 1's 1st and 2nd stage used nitric acid and Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) propellants, and its upper stage used a spin-stabilized solid rocket engine.

Long March 2, Long March 3, Long March 4, the main stages and associated liquid rocket boosters use dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) as the oxidizing agent and UDMH as the fuel. The upper stages (third stage) of Long March 3 rockets use YF-73 and YF-75 engines, using Liquid hydrogen (LH2) as the fuel and Liquid oxygen (LOX) as the oxidizer.

The new generation of Long March rocket family, Long March 5, and its derivations Long March 6, Long March 7 use LOX and kerosene as core stage and liquid booster propellant, with LOX and LH2 in upper stages.

Long March 11 is a solid-fuel rocket.


Long March 11Long March 7ALong March 7Long March 6Long March 5BLong March 5Long March 4CLong March 4BLong March 4ALong March 3CLong March 3BLong March 3ALong March 3Long March 2FLong March 2ELong March 2DLong March 2CLong March 2ALong March 1DLong March 1

The Long March rockets are organized into several series:

Note: There is no Long March 10.

Model Status Stages Length
Max. diameter
Liftoff mass
Liftoff thrust
(LEO, kg)
Payload (SSO, kg) Payload
(GTO, kg)
Long March 1 Retired 3 29.86 2.25 81.6 1020 300 - -
Long March 1D Retired 3 28.22 2.25 81.1 1101.2 930 - -
Long March 2A Retired 2 31.17 3.35 190 2,786 1,800 - -
Long March 2C Active 2 43.72 3.35 245 2,961.6 4,000 2,100 1,250
Long March 2D Active 2 41.056
(without shield)
3.35 249.6 2,961.6 4,000 1,300 -
Long March 2E Retired[12] 2 (plus 4
Strap-on boosters)
49.686 3.35 464 5,923.2 9,500 4,350 3,500
Long March 2F Active 2 (plus 4
Strap-on boosters)
58.34 3.35 493 6512 8,800 - -
Long March 3 Retired [12] 3 44.9 3.35 205 2,961.6 5,000 - 1,600
Long March 3A Active 3 52.52 3.35 242 2,961.6 6,000 5,100 2,600
Long March 3B Retired [a] 3 (plus 4
Strap-on boosters)
54.838 3.35 425.8 5,923.2 11,200 6,850 5,100
Long March 3B/E Active 3 (plus 4
Strap-on boosters)
56.326 3.35 458.97 5923.2 11,500 7,100 5,500
Long March 3C Active 3 (plus 2
Strap-on boosters)
55.638 3.35 345 4,442.4 9,100 6,450 3,900
Long March 4A Retired 3 41.9 3.35 241.1 2,961.6 3,800 1,600 -
Long March 4B Active 3 48 3.35 249.2 2,961.6 4,200 2,295 -
Long March 4C Active 3 48 3.35 249.2 2,961.6 4,200 2,947 1,500
Long March 5 [13][14] Active 2 (plus 4
Strap-on boosters
with optional
upper stage)
57 5 867 10620 32,000 14,400 -
Long March 5B Active 1 (plus 4
Strap-on boosters)
53.7 5 837.5 10620 25,000 - -
Long March 6 [15][16] Active 3 29 3.35 1200 1500 500 - -
Long March 6A In development 2 (plus 4
Strap-on boosters)
50 3.35 530 ? ? 4,000 -
Long March 7 Active 2 (plus 4
Strap-on boosters)
53 3.35 597 7200 14,000 5,500 -[citation needed]
Long March 7A Active 3 (plus 4
Strap-on boosters)
60.13 3.35 573 7,200 ? ? 7,800
Long March 8 In development[17] 2 (plus 2
Strap-on boosters)
50.3 3.35 356 ? 7,600 4,500 2,500
Long March 9 In development 3 (plus 0-4 Strap-on boosters) 93-110[18] 10 [19] 3,997 57,600 180,000 - -
Long March 11 Active 4 solid 20.8 ~2 58 ? 700 350 -


  1. ^ CZ-3B last flown in September 2012 on flight 22 of the combined CZ-3B and CZ-3B/E launch list; subsequent 43 flights in said list (to February 2020) have all been of the CZ-3B/E variant.
2A 2C 2D 2E 2F 3 3A 3B 3C 4A 4B 4C
CZ-2A.svg CZ-2C.svg CZ-2D.svg CZ-2E.svg CZ-2F.svg CZ-3.svg CZ-3A.svg CZ-3B.svg CZ-3C.svg CZ-4A.svg CZ-4B.svg CZ-4C.svg


Long March 8[edit]

A new series of launch vehicles in study, which is geared towards Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) launches.[20] In early 2017, it was expected to be based on the Long March 7, and have two solid fuel boosters, and first launch by the end of 2018.[17] By 2019, it was intended to be partially reusable. The first stage will have legs and grid fins (like Falcon 9) and it may land with side boosters still attached.[21] By January 2020, the first test flight is planned for later in 2020.[21]

Long March 9[edit]

Comparison of super heavy-lift launch vehicles. The Long March 9 is fourth from the left.

The Long March 9 (LM-9, CZ-9, or Changzheng 9, Chinese: 长征九号) is a Chinese super-heavy carrier rocket concept proposed in 2018[22] that is currently in study. It is planned for a maximum payload capacity of 140,000 kg[23] to LEO, 50,000 kg to Trans-lunar injection or 44,000 kg to Mars.[24][25] Its first flight is expected in 2030 in preparation for a lunar landing sometime in the 2030s;[26] a sample return mission from Mars has been proposed as first major mission.[25] It has been stated that around 70% of the hardware and components needed for a test flight are currently undergoing testing, with the first engine test to occur by the end of 2018. The proposed design would be a three-staged rocket, with the initial core having a diameter of 10 meters and use a cluster of four engines. Multiple variants of the rocket have been proposed, CZ-9 being the largest with four liquid-fuel boosters with the aforementioned LEO payload capacity of 140,000 kg, CZ-9A having just two boosters and a LEO payload capacity of 100,000 kg, and finally CZ-9B having just the core stage and a LEO payload capacity of 50,000 kg.[18] If produced, it would be classified as a super heavy-lift launch vehicle along with the Falcon Heavy, the retired American Saturn V and Soviet Energia rockets, the Space Launch System and SpaceX Starship by 2020, under development in the United States, and the Yenisei[27] under development in Russia.

921 rocket[edit]

Replacing the much larger proposed Long March 9, a new rocket (unnamed officially but nicknamed '921 rocket' after the founding date of China's human spaceflight program), based on the same 16.4 ft diameter tanks and YF-100 rocket engines developed for Long March 5, is being developed as part of a two-launch lunar architecture for China[28]. The vehicle would be capable of pushing about 25 metric tons through trans-lunar injection (about half of the Saturn V) and would weigh approximately 2200 tonnes on lift-off. A crewed capsule (also unnamed, but referred to as Next-generation crewed spacecraft) and a lunar lander stack, each launched separately, would rendezvous in lunar orbit to complete each lunar surface mission[29].


The Long March 1 rocket is derived from earlier Chinese 2-stage Intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) DF-4, or Dong Feng 4 missile, and Long March 2, Long March 3, Long March 4 rocket families are derivatives of the Chinese 2-stage Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) DF-5, or Dong Feng 5 missile. However, like its counterparts in both the United States and in Russia, the differing needs of space rockets and strategic missiles have caused the development of space rockets and missiles to diverge. The main goal of a launch vehicle is to maximize payload, while for strategic missiles increased throw weight is much less important than the ability to launch quickly and to survive a first strike. This divergence has become clear in the next generation of Long March rockets, which use cryogenic propellants in sharp contrast to the next generation of strategic missiles, which are mobile and solid fuelled.

The next generation of Long March rocket, Long March 5 rocket family, is a brand new design, while Long March 6 and Long March 7 can be seen as derivations because they use the liquid rocket booster design of Long March 5 to build small-to-mid capacity launch vehicles.

Launch sites[edit]

There are four launch centers in China. They are:

Most of the commercial satellite launches of Long March vehicles have been from Xichang Satellite Launch Center, located in Xichang, Sichuan province. Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan province is under expansion and will be the main launch center for future commercial satellite launches. Long March launches also take place from the more military oriented Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province from which the manned Shenzhou spacecraft also launches. Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center is located in Shanxi province and focuses on the launches of Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) satellites.

On 5 June 2019, China launched a Long March 11 rocket from a mobile launch platform in the Yellow Sea.[30]

Commercial launch services[edit]

China markets launch services under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (China Great Wall Industry Corporation).[31] Its efforts to launch communications satellites were dealt a blow in the mid-1990s after the United States stopped issuing export licenses to companies to allow them to launch on Chinese launch vehicles out of fear that this would help China's military. In the face of this, Thales Alenia Space built the Chinasat-6B satellite with no components from the United States whatsoever. This allowed it to be launched on a Chinese launch vehicle without violating United States International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) restrictions.[32] The launch, on a Long March 3B rocket, was successfully conducted on 5 July 2007.

A Chinese Long March 2D launched VRSS-1 (Venezuelan Remote Sensing Satellite-1) of Venezuela, "Francisco de Miranda" on 29 September 2012.

See also[edit]


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  10. ^ de Selding, Peter B. (14 April 2016). "U.S. ITAR satellite export regime's effects still strong in Europe". SpaceNews.
  11. ^ Henry, Caleb (22 August 2017). "Back-to-back commercial satellite wins leave China Great Wall hungry for more". SpaceNews.
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  13. ^ "cz5". SinoDefence. Archived from the original on 15 September 2008.
  14. ^ "CZ-NGLV". astronautix.com. Archived from the original on 7 September 2008.
  15. ^ "China starts developing Long March 6 carrier rockets for space mission _English_Xinhua". News.xinhuanet.com. 6 September 2009. Archived from the original on 2 November 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2010.
  16. ^ "ChangZheng 6 (Long March 6) Launch Vehicle". SinoDefence.com. 20 February 2009. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. Retrieved 10 August 2010.
  17. ^ a b Jones (February 2017). "hina is aiming to launch a new Long March 8 rocket". gbtimes.com. Archived from the original on 20 March 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2018.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
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  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 March 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ a b Meet the Long March 8 - January 2020 Archived 20 January 2020 at the Wayback Machine Includes CGI image of first stage landing
  22. ^ https://spacenews.com/china-reveals-details-for-super-heavy-lift-long-march-9-and-reusable-long-march-8-rockets/
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