Long March 11 launches from the Xichang Satellite Center in Sichuan province on May 30. XINHUA
Among all the Long March rockets, Long March 11 is, without question, the star. It’s the first and only solid-fuel rocket in the Long March family. It’s also the first rocket in China that has completed a seaborne mission – from the Yellow Sea in June 2019. And now its successful launch on May 30 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province has, again, set new records.
在所有长征系列运载火箭之中，长征十一号运载火箭是当之无愧的尖子生 —— 它是长征系列运载火箭家族第一型，也是唯一一型固体运载火箭。2019年6月，长征十一号运载火箭在我国黄海海域成功实施首次海上发射。而如今，长征十一号运载火箭5月30日在四川西昌卫星发射中心的成功发射，再次刷新了记录。
It was the first time that the Long March 11 had been launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Among its previous eight launches, seven were from Gansu’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and one from the sea. The latest success “has proven its adaptability to different launch sites”, Peng Kunya, the chief designer of the rocket, told Xinhua News Agency.
A new launch platform was also used in the mission, which helped the rocket better adapt to the new environment. According to Guangming News, the new platform is highly integrated and intelligent, allowing the preparation time of the launch to be significantly reduced. China’s capability to launch rockets in a short time has “reached a new level”, Jin Xin, deputy commander-in-chief of the Long March 11 mission, said in a press conference.
The mission also marked the first use of a 2-meter-diameter fairing on the Long March 11. A fairing is the structure outside of a rocket that is able to streamline the rocket and reduce drag. It’s also what “wraps” satellites, protecting them from the increasing pressure and heat when a rocket travels through the atmosphere. A 1.6-meter-diameter fairing was previously used on Long March 11. But this time, two satellites – tasked with conducting inter-satellite data link and Earth observation tests – were onboard the rocket, requiring a wider fairing.
“A fairing measuring 2 meters in diameter leaves more space for satellites,” added Jin.
Long March 11 has indeed proven itself as “the most adaptable carrier rocket in China”, according to Xinhua. But designers didn’t stop there. In fact, they have begun to develop an upgraded version of the Long March 11 – called the Long March 11A – which will be even wider, taller and have greater thrust. The new model is expected to make its maiden flight around 2022.
据新华社报道，长征十一号火箭被充分证实是“国内适应性最强的运载火箭”。但设计师们却并未止步于此。事实上，他们已经启动升级版的长征十一号火箭 —— 长征十一号甲固体运载火箭的研制，该型固体火箭更宽、更大、起飞推力更强，计划在2022年首飞。