Long March 3B

Last updated on 25 August 2017

The Long March 3B (Chinese: 长征三号乙火箭, Chang Zheng 3B), also known as the CZ-3B and LM-3B, is a Chinese orbital carrier rocket. Introduced in 1996, it is launched from Launch Area 2 and 3 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan. A three-stage rocket with four strap-on liquid rocket boosters, it is currently the most powerful member of the Long March rocket family and the heaviest of the Long March 3 rocket family, and is mainly used to place communications satellites into geosynchronous orbits.

An enhanced version, the Long March 3B/E or G2, was introduced in 2007 to increase the rocket's GTO cargo capacity and lift heavier GEO communications satellites. The Long March 3B also served as the basis for the medium-capacity Long March 3C, which was first launched in 2008.

As of June 2017, the Long March 3B and 3B/E have conducted 37 successful launches, plus one failure and two partial failures, giving them a success rate of 92.5%.

The Launch of Long March 3B Rocket.jpg
The Launch of Long March 3B Rocket.jpg


Diagram of the Long March 3B, showing its outboard liquid rocket boosters.

The development of the Long March 3B began in 1986 to meet the needs of the international GEO communications satellite market. During its maiden flight on 14 February 1996 carrying the Intelsat 708 satellite, the rocket suffered a guidance failure two seconds into the flight and destroyed a nearby town, killing at least six people,[5] but outside estimates suggest that anywhere between 200 and 500 people might have been killed.[6] However, the author of [6] later ruled out large casualties, because evidence suggest that the crash site is evacuated before launching.[7]

The Long March 3B and 3B/E rockets conducted ten successful launches between 1997 and 2008.[2]

In 1997, the Agila 2 satellite was forced to use onboard propellant to reach its correct orbit because of poor injection accuracy on the part of its Long March 3B launch vehicle.[8] In 2009, a Long March 3B partially failed during launch due to a third stage anomaly, which resulted in the Palapa-D satellite reaching a lower orbit than planned.[9] Nonetheless, the satellite was able to maneuver itself into the planned orbit. The Long March 3B and its variants remain in active use as of January 2014, having conducted a total of 23 consecutive successful launches.

In December 2013, a Long March 3B/E successfully lifted Chang'e 3, China's first Lunar lander and rover into the projected lunar-transfer orbit.

Design and variants

The Long March 3B is based on the Long March 3A as its core stage, with four liquid boosters strapped on the first stage. It has an LEO cargo capacity of 12,000 kilograms (26,000 lb) and a GTO capacity is 5,100 kilograms (11,200 lb).

Long March 3B/E

The Long March 3B/E, also known as 3B/G2, is an enhanced variant of the Long March 3B, featuring an enlarged first stage and boosters, increasing its GTO payload capacity to 5,500 kilograms (12,100 lb).[10] Its maiden flight took place on 13 May 2007, when it successfully launched Nigeria's NigComSat-1, the first African geosynchronous communications satellite. In 2013, it successfully launched China's first lunar lander Chang'e 3 and lunar rover Yutu.

Since 2015, the Long March 3B and 3C can optionally accommodate a YZ-1 upper stage, which has been used to carry dual launches or BeiDou navigation satellites into medium-Earth orbit.

Long March 3C

A modified version of the Long March 3B, the Long March 3C, was developed in the mid-1990s to bridge the gap in payload capacity between the Long March 3B and 3A. It is almost identical to the Long March 3B, but has two boosters instead of four, giving it a reduced GTO payload capacity of 3,800 kilograms (8,400 lb). Its maiden launch took place on 25 April 2008.

List of Launches

Flight number Date (UTC) Launch site Version Payload Orbit Result
1 February 14, 1996
LA-2, XSLC 3B Intelsat 708 GTO Failure
2 August 19, 1997
LA-2, XSLC 3B Agila-2 GTO Success
3 October 16, 1997
LA-2, XSLC 3B APStar 2R GTO Success
4 May 30, 1998
LA-2, XSLC 3B Chinastar 1 GTO Success
5 July 18, 1998
LA-2, XSLC 3B SinoSat 1 GTO Success
6 April 12, 2005
LA-2, XSLC 3B APStar 6 GTO Success
7 October 28, 2006
LA-2, XSLC 3B SinoSat 2 GTO Success
8 May 13, 2007
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E NigComSat-1 GTO Success
9 July 5, 2007
LA-2, XSLC 3B ChinaSat 6B GTO Success
10 June 9, 2008
LA-2, XSLC 3B ChinaSat 9 GTO Success
11 October 29, 2008
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Venesat-1 GTO Success
12 August 31, 2009
LA-2, XSLC 3B Palapa-D GTO Partial Failure
13 September 4, 2010
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E SinoSat 6 GTO Success
14 June 20, 2011
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 10 GTO Success
15 August 11, 2011
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Paksat-1R GTO Success
16 September 18, 2011
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 1A GTO Success
17 October 7, 2011
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Eutelsat W3C GTO Success
18 December 19, 2011
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E NigComSat-1R GTO Success
19 March 31, 2012
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E APStar 7 GTO Success
20 April 29, 2012
LA-2, XSLC 3B Compass-M3
MTO Success
21 May 26, 2012
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 2A GTO Success
22 September 18, 2012
LA-2, XSLC 3B Compass-M5
MTO Success
23 November 27, 2012
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 12 GTO Success
24 May 1, 2013
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 11 GTO Success
25 December 1, 2013
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Chang'e 3 LTO Success
26 December 20, 2013
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Túpac Katari 1 GTO Success
27 July 25, 2015
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E + YZ-1 BDS M1-S
MEO Success
28 September 12, 2015
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E TJS-1 GTO Success
29 September 29, 2015
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E BDS I2-S GTO Success
30 October 16, 2015
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E APStar 9 GTO Success
31 November 3, 2015
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 2C GTO Success
32 November 20, 2015
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E LaoSat-1 GTO Success
33 December 9, 2015
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 1C GTO Success
34 December 28, 2015
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Gaofen 4 GTO Success
35 January 15, 2016
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E Belintersat-1 GTO Success
36 August 5, 2016
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E Tiantong-1-01 GTO Success
37 December 10, 2016
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E Fengyun-4A GTO Success
38 January 5, 2017
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E TJS-2 GTO Success
39 April 12, 2017
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Shijian 13 GTO Success
40 June 19, 2017
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Chinasat 9A GTO Partial Failure

Launch failures

Intelsat 708 launch failure

On February 14, 1996, the launch of the first Long March 3B with Intelsat 708 failed just after liftoff when the launch vehicle veered off course and exploded when it hit the ground at T+23 seconds. At least 6 people on the ground were killed by the explosion. The cause of the accident was traced to short-circuiting of the vehicle's guidance platform at liftoff.

Palapa-D partial launch failure

On August 31, 2009, during the launch of Palapa-D, the third stage engine under-performed and placed the satellite into a lower than planned orbit. The satellite was able to make up the performance shortfall using its own engine and reach geosynchronous orbit, but with its lifetime shortened to 10.5 years. Investigation found that the engine's gas generator suffered a burn-through due to ice blockage in the engine's liquid-hydrogen injectors.[11]

ChinaSat-9A partial launch failure

On June 19th, 2017,a Long March 3B/E mission carrying ChinaSat-9A ended in partial failure. Officials refused to release details regarding the status of the mission until about 13 hours after liftoff. Officials then confirmed that the mission had been anomalous and that an anomaly had been detected in the performance of the vehicle's upper stage due to which the intended orbit had not been attained, while analyzing the vehicle's telemetry. Investigation found a failure in third stages Rolling Control Thruster during the glide phase left payload in a lower than intended orbit, the payload spent two weeks reaching its intended orbit under its own power.[12]


  1. ^ a b c Mark Wade. "CZ-3B". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved 26 April 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d "LM-3B". China Great Wall Industry Corporation. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e "LM-3A Series Launch Vehicle User's Manual - Issue 2011" (PDF). China Great Wall Industries Corporation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-07-17. Retrieved 2015-08-09.
  4. ^ a b c d e Gunter Krebs. "CZ-3B (Chang Zheng-3B)". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 26 April 2008.
  5. ^ Select Committee of the United States House of Representatives (3 January 1999). "Satellite Launches in the PRC: Loral". U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  6. ^ a b Lan, Chen. "Mist around the CZ-3B disaster". The Space Review. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  7. ^ Lan, Chen. "Mist around the CZ-3B disaster (part 2)". The Space Review. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  8. ^ International reference guide to space launch systems. Fourth edition. p. 243. ISBN 1-56347-591-X.
  9. ^ ""帕拉帕-D"通信卫星未能进入预定轨道". Xinhua. 31 August 2009. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  10. ^ "LM-3B". China Great Wall Industry Corporation. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  11. ^ de Selding, Peter B. (19 November 2009). "Burn-through Blamed in China Long March Mishap". SpaceNews. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  12. ^ http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Chinese_satellite_Zhongxing_9A_enters_preset_orbit_999.html

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