Chinese space station: discover the first “Zero Window” launch of the LM-5B rocket

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The Long March-5B Y3, China’s most powerful carrier rocket, lifts off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan at 2:22 p.m. on July 24, 2022. /China Media Group

The Long March-5B Y3, China’s most powerful carrier rocket, lifts off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan at 2:22 p.m. on July 24, 2022. /China Media Group

China has pursued a “Zero Window” launch for the Wentian mission, referring to a launch at a pre-determined optimum time to reach its intended target, sending Wentian’s laboratory module to dock with the China sub-construction’s Tianhe core module. Space Station.

If a “Zero Window” launch is not achieved in time, the mission must be delayed until the next launch window.

The Long March-5B Y3 (LM-5B Y3), China’s strongest carrier rocket with giant size and complicated system, carrying Wentian (meaning “quest of the heavens”) took off from the Wenchang Spacecraft launch site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan at 2:22 p.m. on July 24, 2022, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMS).

Massive preparations were made to secure the Long March-5B’s first successful “Zero Window” launch mission within a specific time window.

Space Station: Uncover LM-5B rocket’s first ‘Zero Window’ launch” data-origin=”web_list”>

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How difficult is a “Zero Window” launch?

Zhong Wenan, chief engineer of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, told China Media Group (CMG) that the launch was the first time the Long March-5B carried out a rendezvous and docking mission.

“The launch must be completed in zero seconds in order to meet and dock with the main module, so the launch time must not exceed one second.”

Liu Jinjie, China’s first-ever female engineer tasked with pushing the button to send the rocket into space on July 24, told CMG that “continuing the ‘Zero Window’ launch means I have to get more familiar with the possible emergency scenarios”.

Previously, China’s Long March-2F and Long March-7 carrier rockets have made many “Zero Window” launches, and the technology is relatively mature.

However, for the Long March-5B which has a larger size with an extremely complex system and structure, the difficulty of the mission has been multiplied and much more sophisticated preparations are required before launch.

“‘Zero Window’ puts very strict requirements on our rocket, so it must be launched on time,” said Yu Menglun, ballistic rocket design expert from China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

“The time between takeoff and orbiting is strictly controlled, so for our rocket, a set of control strategies has been specially designed to meet this requirement. In general, the launch efficiency has been improved and the module can be quickly docked with the basic module.”

The Long March-5B Y3, China’s most powerful carrier rocket, takes off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan at 2:22 p.m. on July 24, 2022. /CFP

The Long March-5B Y3, China’s most powerful carrier rocket, lifts off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan at 2:22 p.m. on July 24, 2022. /CFP

How does Long March-5B achieve a “Zero Window” launch?

In order to improve emergency response capability before launch, the launch team formulated more than 1,000 plans, all of which have been checked and tested to deal with any emergency, according to Zhong Wenan.

Liao Guorui, mission commander of China’s space station‘s Wentian laboratory module, said his team focused on stepping up training in actual installation operations, composite training, troubleshooting and l emergency response, and effectively improved the ability of personnel to perform tasks to ensure that the mission status and nodes are well under control, and the launch mission is a complete success.

The Long March-5B Y3, China’s most powerful carrier rocket, takes off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan at 2:22 p.m. on July 24, 2022. /CFP

The Long March-5B Y3, China’s most powerful carrier rocket, takes off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan at 2:22 p.m. on July 24, 2022. /CFP

Huang Bing, deputy chief designer of the Long March-5B carrier rocket mission under the CASC, said his team revised and improved many plans for the launch process, and the whole plan has thousands of items to ensure that even if there were unexpected situations, they can be dealt with in the shortest time.

According to Huang, since there are many unpredictable situations during the launch process and the “Zero Window” mode does not allow any time errors, an automated mechanism was designed in the rocket, allowing it to independently choose the route of optimal flight if something unexpected happens. .

“For example, it’s like driving a car. If you miss an intersection, you have to replan the route if you want to meet your partner on time according to the original plan. In fact, the trajectory of our rocket was designed intelligently, so that it can actively recover the time lost during the flight,” Huang said.

The Long March-5B Y3, China’s most powerful carrier rocket, lifts off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan at 2:22 p.m. BJT on July 24, 2022. /CFP

The Long March-5B Y3, China’s most powerful carrier rocket, lifts off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan at 2:22 p.m. BJT on July 24, 2022. /CFP

Long March Debris-5B enters the earth’s atmosphere

According to CMS, based on monitoring and analysis, debris from the final stage of Long March 5B’s reentry into Earth’s atmosphere fell into the surrounding sea area at 119.0 east longitude. and 9.1 north latitude around 12:55 a.m. Sunday, with most components burned and destroyed during the reentry process.

It is the third flight of China’s most powerful rocket since its maiden launch in 2020, and the 24th flight mission since the approval and launch of the country’s manned space program.

Construction of China’s space station is expected to be completed by the end of this year. By then, the space station will evolve from a single-module structure to a three-module national space laboratory, consisting of the Tianhe core module and the Wentian and Mengtian laboratory modules.

(CGTN’s Zeng Hong’en, Cao Qingqing, and Zhao Chenchen also contributed to the story.)

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