International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

‘The Long March 5B’ rocket


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : The Long March 5B

Mains level : Not Much

China has successfully launched a new rocket and prototype spacecraft in a major test of the country’s ambitions to operate a permanent space station and send astronauts to the Moon.

Can you recall the historical link between the name “The Long March” and China’s History.

The Long March 5B

  • Long March 5 or Chang Zheng 5 is a Chinese heavy-lift launch system developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT).
  • It is the first Chinese launch vehicle designed from the ground up to focus on non-hypergolic liquid rocket propellants.
  • The maximum payload capacities of the base variant are ~25,000 kilograms to Low Earth Orbit and ~14,000 kilograms to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit.
  • The spaceship is expected to transport astronauts to a space station that China plans to complete by 2022 — and eventually to the Moon. It will have a capacity for a crew of six.

Back2Basics: Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit


  • About 35,786 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, satellites are in geostationary orbit. From the center of the Earth, this is approximately 42,164 kilometers. This distance puts it in the high Earth orbit category.
  • At any inclination, a geosynchronous orbit synchronizes with the rotation of the Earth.
  • While geosynchronous satellites can have any inclination, the key difference to geostationary orbit is the fact that they lie on the same plane as the equator.
  • GTO is a an elliptical orbit used to transfer between two circular orbits of different radiuses in the same plane—used to reach geosynchronous or  geostationary orbit using high-thrust chemical engines.
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