Filling a gap in its rocket stable, China’s new medium-lift rocket, the Long March 8 (CZ-8), successfully lifted off on its maiden flight at 0437 GMT on 22 December from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in South Hainan Province, China. The launch carried the experimental satellite XJY-7 as its primary payload along with four smaller co-payloads to a sun-synchronous LEO. The Long March 8 rocket is 50.3 m long and has a lift-off mass of 356 metric tons. It can carry a payload of at least 4.5 metric tons to a sun-synchronous 700 km LEO.
Long March 8 is not a “brand new rocket” but rather a hybrid using the main stage and two boosters from the Long March 7, and a second stage derived from the third stage of the Long March 3 series. Long March 8, alongside the new-generation Long March 5 and 7 rockets, marks the fulfilment of the aerospace section of China’s 13th Five-year Plan to produce new rockets. There are plans to turn the Long March 8 into a partly reusable rocket with reusable rocket stages.