China's rocket launch: A national and global mission

By Zhou Lin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Today, April 6, 2017
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Jiang Jie, Chinese Academy of Sciences academician and chief designer of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology CZ-3A series of rocket launchers. [Photo/China Today]

The Chinese orbital carrier rocket Long March 3A (Chang Zheng 3A, or CZ-3A) awaits the countdown from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center deep in the Great Liangshan Mountains of southwest China's Sichuan Province.

After reaching "Zero" Jiang Jie, chief designer of the mission, gives the order for CZ-3A to ignite and take off.

"Hit 10,000-mile-distant Target"

Jiang Jie is an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and chief designer of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology CZ-3A series of rocket launchers.

She often reflects, "Thirty years ago, discovering aerospace was my dream; but today, it is my passion!"

Jiang Jie began her career at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in 1983, after graduation from the National University of Defense Technology. Since then, she has risen through the ranks from designer, to academic research leader, to chief rocket launch designer. Throughout these three decades she has dedicated herself wholeheartedly to research on CZ-3A series rocket launchers.

A launch vehicle is the rocket on a spaceflight that carries the payload from the Earth's surface to outer space.

The CZ-3A series rocket launchers comprises the CZ-3A, CZ-3B, and CZ-3C/YZ-1, the latter two of which are heavier versions of the CZ-3A. The launch vehicle consists of a three-stage rocket which usually carries BeiDou Navigation Satellites, communications satellites, and international commercial satellites into outer space. Having undertaken all kinds of high orbital space missions, the CZ-3A series launches account for one third of all China's carrier rocket launch missions. The capability of the launch vehicle is a determining factor in the potential success of China's spaceflights. "The rocket launcher is like the first baton in a relay-race. We must ensure its good performance in order to give full play to the satellites it carries," Jiang Jie said.

When the Chang'e-3 Lunar Probe was launched as part of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, it directly entered the earth-moon transfer orbit at 200 km perigee and 380,000 km apogee before separating from the carrier rocket. The journey could be compared to taking an elevator directly to the target, one thus demanding unerring accuracy.

"If we compare rocket launching to archery, earlier missions needed only to hit the third ring of the target; however, this time we must hit the bull's eye," Jiang Jie said.

Challenges call for innovation and transcendence. Jiang Jie and her team accordingly acted on their initiative in adopting the composite guidance technology named "double laser inertial platform plus satellite navigation."

"This technology is like giving the carrier rocket two eyes: one that ensures the rocket follows the well-designed orbit, the other that accurately calculates the best route and automatically modifies its path," Jiang Jie explained.

On December 2, 2013, the CZ-3C/YZ-1 successfully carried the Chang'e-3 Lunar Probe to the moon.

Since the beginning of her career, Jiang Jie has participated in research on almost 30 CZ-3A series rocket launchers. She has accumulated rich experience through major technological breakthroughs, such as designing the stable control of an asymmetric rocket through two boosters, successfully carrying out the rocket flight control mission, and accurately delivering the first lunar exploration satellite into the scheduled orbit. Jiang Jie has thus matured into an aerospace expert.

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