Geek Penguin in GTO
- Jan 27, 2011
- Reaction score
- Hong Kong
In a few hours time, one of the largest milestones of recent Chinese spaceflight history (especially on the rocketry section) will occur - and we won't know anything about it had not been the fact that amateur radio operators are waiting for this one! :ninja:
The maiden flight of China's next generation rockets and 2 of the new rocket engines that will support the future of China's universal ambitions is less than 3 hours away. Yet unlike its larger sisters Long March 5 and 7, the Vega class Long March 6 was developed in almost complete secrecy and only one single photo of a completed launch vehicle has ever been leaked out!
Departing from every single previous Chinese design, the Long March 6 is the country's first clean sheet design rocket to fly, and the first one to fly from China with a kerosene/LOX powered engine. Both main stages of this Vega class launcher (more than 1 tonne to a 700 km SSO) are using completely new engines that will face their ultimate test in a few hours time, a moment that Chinese engineers have worked for the past 1.5 decades to reach.
Firstly, we have the YF-100 staged combustion kerolox engine, China's answer to an universal next generation engine that will literally boost their space dreams. For it will be used on all the first stages of the Long March 6/7 rockets, as well as the boosters on the Long March 5/7, lifting everything from small satellites in the "Vega class lift" requirements to lunar sample return missions and space station modules needing something in the Ariane 5 class!
This 1200 kN (270000 pounds of force) thrust engine (closest to the NK-33/AJ-26 in terms of thrust and specific impulse) was apparently developed using a Soviet RD-120 engine (used on the Zenit rocket's 2nd stage) sold to China in the late 1990s as a reference, but with 50% larger thrust. Of course the Chinese can't just copy it so it took more than 10 years to finally get this engine to the flight test phase. :hmm:
The 2nd stage engine is completely new too, though we don't know too much about it. The YF-115 engine is also a staged combustion kerolox engine an order of magnitude smaller than the first stage engine, providing about 175 kN (40000 pounds of force) during its flight. This engine will also be used for the 2nd stage of the Long March 7 rocket (4 engines on that stage) so we will probably also see it in action later. There is supposed to be a 3rd trim stage on this rocket too, although nothing is known about it.
This crucial first flight of one of the world's most used rockets in the future is about to happen today at 23:00 UTC at a top secret new pad at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern China. The passengers on board are 20 small satellites from various Chinese institutions - at least 8 of them are amateur ham radio satellites that people worldwide will be able to track. Unfortunately we still don't know some of the passenger's identities at such a late stage! :facepalm:
I have absolutely no idea why the Chinese put this launch in complete secrecy :uhh: (there has been ZERO announcements from official channels for the past few months; compare with the Russians where they keep track of the development of the Angara and made one live broadcast attempt), but this one certainly needs more luck than many others.