If you guessed China’s heavy lifter failed due to a liquid hydrogen turbo engine fault, well done!

Late 2018 launch plan for third attempt at moon-capable rocket

China’s National Space Administration has figured out why its Long March Y2 launch went awry in July 2017.

The “unsuccessful” launch, as Chinese authorities put it at the time, was China’s second attempt at achieving heavy lift capability with its new Long March 5 vehicle.

The first launch of the rocket, which boasts a payload of 25,000kg to low earth orbit and 8,200kg for a trans-lunar orbit, worked but didn’t quite deposit its satellite cargo into the right orbit. The second launch was aborted, with fireworks-a-plenty resulting.

Such problems matter to China because heavy lift capacity has strategic significance. China is also keenly aware that successful space missions boost its soft power. With the Long March 5 intended to carry the Chang'e 5 mission to collect soil and rock specimens from the Moon, failures of the rocket were therefore unwelcome.

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The National Space Administration has now described the fault as a “core-level liquid hydrogen turbo engine exhaust air exhaust system in a complex thermal environment”. Said thermal environment caused a “local structure anomaly” resulting in “momentary decline” of engine thrust and “the loss of launch mission.”

Significantly, the Administration also declared that all rocket’s problems are behind it and that a redesigned vehicle will be used in an unspecified mission late in 2018 and for future lunar exploration efforts.

The nation’s set no new timeframe for its moonshot, having previously said it would fly in 2017. ®

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