China’s Long March 8 Rocket Makes Successful Debut in Step Toward Reusability

Long March 8 launches for the first time on Dec. 22, 2020. (Credit: CNSA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China’s newest booster, Long March 8, successfully placed five satellites into sun-synchronous orbit on Tuesday from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in a step toward partial reusability.

The medium-lift booster blasted off at 12:37 p.m. local time from Hainan island carrying the classified XJY-7 remote sensing technology test satellite and four smaller payloads.

“The relevant satellite payloads will verify the microwave imaging and other technologies in orbit, and carry out space science, remote sensing, and communication technology experiments and applications,” the China National Space Administration said in a press release.

Long March 8 first stage with side boosters lands on offshore platform.

China eventually plans to land Long March 8 first stages for later reuse in a manner similar to that used by SpaceX for its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters. Reuse of Long March 8 first stages is likely several years away.

Long March 8 is part of a new family of Chinese boosters that includes Long March 5, Long March 6 and Long March 7. The new launch vehicles use non-toxic and pollution-free propellants. They are designed to replace older Long March 2 and 3 boosters that use toxic hypergolic fuels.

Long March 8 Specifications

Stages: 2 (with side boosters)
Height: 50.34 m (165.2 ft)
Core Diameter: 3.35 m (11 ft)
Fairing Diameter: 4.2 m (13.8 ft)
Mass: 356 metric tons (369.3 tons)
Payload to SSO (700 km): 4.5 metric tons (4.96 tons)
Payload to LEO: 8.4 metric tons (9.26 tons)
Payload to GTO: 2.8 metric tons (3.1 tons)

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), which is affiliated with China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), developed and built Long March 8.

In addition to the XJY-7 satellite, the 356th launch of the Long March series also include the following payloads:

  • Haisea-1 miniature synthetic aperture radar satellite for Spacety;
  • Yuanguang space science satellite developed by Spacety and Hubei University of Technology;
  • Zhixing-1A (aka, ET-SMART-RSS) 6U nanosat developed by Beijing Zhixing Space Technology Co. and Ethiopia; and,
  • Ping’an-1 (aka, Tianqi Xingzuo-08) Internet of Things satellite for Guodian Gaoke’s Apocalypse constellation.