Origin of Chinese Rocketry

Early Chinese Rocket Development

The Chinese leadership decided to pursue an independent nuclear deterrence capability as early as 1956. The Chinese rocketry and missile programme was headed by Qian Xuesen, a Western-educated top scientist. The Chinese missile programme was a combination of Soviet technology, Western experience, and Chinese ingenuity. In parallel with the ballistic missile programme, Chinese scientists also developed a sounding rocket programme for early space explorations.


From Ballistic Missiles to Space Launchers

The Chinese ballistic missile programme saw a rapid expansion in the 1960s—80s, with the introduction of a range of designs from short-range to intercontinental-range. Two of these missiles, the intermediate-range Dong Feng-4 (CSS-3) and the intercontinental-range Dong Feng-5 (CSS-4), were subsequently adopted for use as space launchers.

Chang Zheng (Long March) Rocket Families

Chang Zheng-1

The Chang Zheng-1 three-stage liquid-fuel rocket was derived from the Dong Feng-4 (CSS-3) intermediate-range ballistic missile. It was used to launch China’s first satellite Dong Fang Hong 1 in 1970 and second satellite Shi Jian 1 in 1971.


Chang Zheng-2

The Chang Zheng-2 is a two-stage liquid-fuel rocket derived from the Dong Feng-5 (CSS-4) intercontinental ballistic missile. It also formed the basis for the CZ-3 and CZ-4 rocket families.


Chang Zheng-2E/F

The Chang Zheng-2E/F is a heavy-lift rocket using the CZ-2C as core-stage with four strap-on liquid boosters. The CZ-2E was used in the 1990s for the launch of geostationary telecommunications satellites from the Xichang launch centre. The man-rated CZ-2F has been used to launch the Shenzhou manned spacecraft since 1999.


Chang Zheng-3

The Chang Zheng-3 three-stage rocket was based on the CZ-2, added with a LOX/LH2 third-stage for geostationary satellite launch missions. The improved CZ-3B is CHina’s most powerful rocket in service, with a launch capability of 5,500 kg to geostationary transfer orbit.


Chang Zheng-4

The Chang Zheng-4 family of three-stage rockets was also based on the CZ-2, added with a conventional liquid-fuel third-stage. The rocket has been used to launch Earth-observation satellites to sun-synchronous orbit.

New-Generation Chang Zheng Rockets

Chang Zheng-5

The Chang Zheng-5 is China’s next-generation heavy-lift space launch system, capable of delivering 25,000 kg payload to low Earth orbit or 14,000 kg to geostationary transfer orbit. The rocket burns non-poisonous and non-polluting LOX/kerosene and LOX/LH2 liquid propellants. It will be manufactured in the new rocket fabrication facility in Tianjin and launched from the new spaceport in Hainan.


Chang Zheng-6

The Chang Zheng-6 is a two-stage liquid-fuel small-load rocket designed to place small- and micro-satellites into orbit. The rocket was designed with a rapid-launch capability in mind, allowing simplified pre-launch processing and checkout procedures to reduce the launch preparation time.

Chang Zheng-7

The Chang Zheng-7 is China’s next-generation medium-lift space launch system intended as a successor to the existing CZ-2/-3/-4 families. The rocket will have both two- and three-stage configurations for different launch missions. A man-rated variant will also developed to replace the existing CZ-2F for Shenzhou launches.

Chang Zheng-9

The Chang Zheng-9 is a super-heavy lift space launch system currently in study. With a maximum payload capability of 130,000 kg to LEO and 50,000 kg to GTO, the rocket will be capable of supporting China’s future manned lunar landing and Mars exploration programmes.

Chang Zheng-11

The Chang Zheng-11 is a small-load solid-fuel rocket for orbital launches. It may have been derived from the Dong Feng-31 ICBM technology.

Other Rockets

Kaituozhe (KT)

The Kaituozhe series small-load solid-fuel rocket was developed from the Dong Feng-21 (CSS-5) medium-range ballistic missile.


Kuai Zhou (KZ)

The Kuai Zhou 1 is a mobile-launched three-stage solid-fuel small-load rocket designed to provide a rapid response launch capability. The rocket and its payload are integrated to share the same power, electric, guidance, and propellant tank in order to simplify its design and launch preparation.


Sounding Rockets

Since the 1960s, China has developed a range of sounding rockets for scientific research and technology demonstration purposes. Recent designs include the TY-3 series.


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