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Long March 12 rocket to debut this year

By ZHAO LEI | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-02-26 16:05

China has developed a new type of carrier rocket, and it is expected to make its debut flight this year, according to a designer.

Zeng Wenhua, a structural designer at the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, said on Monday that the research and development stage of the Long March 12, the latest model in the Long March family, has been completed at the academy, a subsidiary of State-owned conglomerate China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

Currently, assembly and testing of the first Long March 12 rocket are underway at the academy, she said, noting that the maiden flight has been scheduled to take place this year at the Hainan International Commercial Aerospace Launch Center in Wenchang, Hainan province, which is under construction and is expected to start formal operations in June.

The Long March 12 will become the first Chinese rocket with a diameter of 3.8 meters — wider than the 3.35-meter diameter of most Chinese rockets — and will have two stages. It will be more than 60 meters tall, the designer said.

Propelled by six liquid oxygen-kerosene-fueled engines, the model will be capable of transporting spacecraft with a combined weight of about 10 metric tons to a low-Earth orbit or six tons of satellites to a typical sun-synchronous orbit with an altitude of 700 kilometers, according to Zeng.

"The Long March 12 incorporates a number of new technologies and will feature high reliability and multiple functions. Its service will extensively improve our country's capability to send spacecraft to a sun-synchronous orbit and deploy multi-satellite networks in low orbits," the designer said.

The country has developed and launched more than 20 types of Long March-series rockets, and 16 of them are in active service. The Long March family is the pillar of the country's space programs and has fulfilled more than 500 launch missions.

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