10 things you (probably) didn’t know about the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch site and popular spots to watch the next launch.

The Wenchang Space Launch Site is located in Longlou Town, Wenchang, Hainan. It is China’s first open coastal space launch base and one of the few low-latitude launch sites in the world (19 degrees north of the equator).

The Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site was formerly a test base for China to launch suborbital rockets, later it was approved by the State Council and the Central Military Commission to build China’s first coastal launch site.

Construction of the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site began on September 14, 2009 and it was completed on October 2014.

Low latitude launch site

As the earth’s equator has the fastest rotational speed over other latitudes, launching a rocket here will have a greater velocity which in turn reduces the fuel needed to launch.

Earth spin speed
The equator has the fastest rotational speed over other latitudes

Interesting to note, as the earth rotates eastward, only launches in this direction can take advantage of the extra velocity. Launches heading Westward (against the earth’s rotation) are more difficult as they are counteracting the earths spin.

Ease of transport and safety

The site for the launch center wasn’t chosen only for its lower latitude velocity boost but safety and transportation were also in mind.

Situated along the coastline, the ocean acts as a landing net for any misadventures or falling debris.

Generally, large rocket parts and equipment are transported by rail however the boosters for the Long March 5 rocket are too large to transport by train, so Wenchang uses its port for these deliveries.

Launch complex 201 at the wenchang space launch center

Satellite launch centers in China

Currently there are four satellite launch centers across China, the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC), Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC), Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) and the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center (WSLC)

The Wenchang launch site is capable of launching a series of Long March-5 and Long March-7 carrier rockets, and it is mainly responsible for launching geosynchronous orbit satellites, polar-orbit satellites, high-capacity space stations and deep-space exploration satellites.

Geosynchronous_orbit
Geosynchronous orbit

Interesting note: Geosynchronous orbit satellites have an earth-centered orbit with an orbital period that matches the Earth’s rotation on its axis, 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds (one sidereal day).

March-7 rocket’s first successful launch in Wenchang

In January 2015, the Long March-7 carrier rocket arrived at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site, marking the debut of the Long March-7 carrier rocket and the Wenchang launch system.

The Long March 7 carrier rocket blasted off from Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Center at 20:00 on June 25, 2016.

About 603 seconds later, the payload assembly separated from the rocket, entering an elliptical orbit with a perigee of 200 km and an apogee of 394 km. The first successful launch of the March-7 carrier rocket had taken place.

Note: The Moon’s orbit around Earth is elliptical. The point of the orbit closest to Earth is called perigee, while the point farthest from Earth is known as apogee.

Rockets launched at the Wenchang space center.

Long March 7

Long March 7 is a new type of liquid fuel carrier rocket developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.

Tianzhou-1: Long March 7 rocket arrives in Wenchang
Tianzhou-1: Long March 7 rocket arrives in Wenchang

The Long March 7 is responsible for about 80 % of China’s spacecraft launch missions. At present it is used to launch cargo spacecraft, in the future it will be used to launch manned spacecraft.

Long March 5 Series

Long March 5 Series Launch Vehicle is a Chinese heavy-lift launch vehicle developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT).

It comes in two variants namely the CZ-5 and the CZ-5B. It has a payload of up to 25,000kg dependent on the mission.

Long march 5 y2 being transported from assembly building to launch site

Long March 8

The Long March 8 rocket is China’s new generation of medium size, medium and low orbit two-stage liquid strap-on launch vehicle.

Long March 8
The maiden flight of the Long March 8 was launched on 22 December 2020 from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site.

A planned future launch vehicle variant of the Long March 8 will be partially reusable by featuring a combined booster recovery of the first stage and the boosters as a single unit.

The maiden flight of the Long March 8 was launched on 22 December 2020 from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site.

Previous launches at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site.

Long March 7- Y1 – 20:00 June 25, 2016.

Launched the multipurpose spacecraft scale re-entry capsule, space debris initiative cleanup vehicle, Pigeon one air vehicles and tiny satellites.

Long March5- Y1 – 20:43 November 03, 2016.

Launched the SJ-17 Satellite

Long March 7 – Y2 – 19:41 on April 20, 2017.

Launched the TZ-1 cargo spacecraft and SL-1 Scientific experimental satellite.

Long March 5- Y2 19:23 on July 02, 2017.

The launch mission was aborted due to an instantaneous drop in engine thrust.

Long March 5- Y3 20:45 on December 27, 2019.

Launched the SJ-20 Satellite

Long March 7 – CZ-7A Y1 21:34 on March 16, 2020.

The mission was aborted when the rocket failed to follow its intended trajectory into space.

Long March B-Y1: 18:00 on May 05, 2020.

Launched a new generation of manned spacecraft test ship and the flexible inflatable cargo re-entry module.

Long March 5- Y4: 12:41 PM on July 23, 2020

Launched the Tianwen 1 Mars probe.

Long March 5- Y5: 4:30 on November 24, 2020

Launched the Chang’e 5 probe.

Long March 8 –Y1: 12:37 PM 22 December 2020

Launched test satellite-7,Hisea-1 satellite, Guangyuan satellite ,Tianqixingzuo-08 satellite and Zhixing-1A satellite.

Long March 7 – CZ-7A Y2: 1:51 AM March 12, 2021

launched the Shiyan-9 satellite

Long March 5 rocket


Where to see a rocket launch in Hainan

Qiaotou Park, Qinglan Bridge 清澜大桥西侧桥头公园

Covering an area of 201 mu, Qiaotou park parking lot can hold 293 cars and 10 buses. It can hold around 4,000 spectators.
Address: The west side of Qinglan Bridge, Wenchang文昌市清澜大桥西侧

Longlou junction space science center龙楼交界处航天科普中心

The science center parking lot can accommodate 674 cars, 70 buses, during launches it will admit up to 3,000 people.
Address: Coastal tourist road east suburb, the junction of Longlou, Wenchang文昌市滨海旅游公路东郊、龙楼交界处

Longlou Tianfu Yunlong Bay Holiday Resort龙楼镇天福云龙湾度假村

As the crow flies this is the closest viewing place to the rocket launch site. It can accommodate around 800 people.
Address: Tongguling Nature Reserve 文昌市铜鼓岭自然保护区

Longlou Hilton Hotel Coastal Beach龙楼镇希尔顿酒店沿海沙滩

Covering an area of 50 acres, it can take around 4000 people to watch the launches.
Addess: No.28 Ziwei Road, Longlou Town, Wenchang 文昌市龙楼镇紫薇路28号

Tanghong Port of Longlou Town龙楼镇堂洪港

Covering an area of 15 mu, it can accommodate around1500 people.
Address: The west side of Stone Park in Longlou Town, Wenchang 文昌市龙楼镇石头公园西侧

213 Plot of Longlou Town龙楼镇213地块

The parking lot can accommodate 400 cars, 10 minibuses and 5 buses, and is expected to accommodate 2,000 people.
Address: The west side of Stone Park in Longlou Town, Wenchang 文昌市龙楼镇石头公园西侧

The coastal beach of Shanhaitian Convention Center龙楼镇山海天会展中心沿海沙滩

One of the largest spots to watch the launch, it can hold around 7,000.
Address: No.1 Gusong Road, Zuanshi Avenue, Longlou Town,Wenchang 文昌市龙楼镇钻石大道古松路1号

Mighty Long March 9 carrier rocket set to debut in 2030
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