Chinese Long March Rocket Launch Tests Grid Fins for Safety, Future Reusability | 7/26/2019 | Andrew Jones
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HELSINKI — The launch of a Long March 2C from Xichang last week included a first use of grid fins by China to minimize the threat posed by the spent first stage to populated areas downrange.

The two-stage hypergolic Long March 2C lifted off at 11:57 p.m. Eastern July 25 carrying three Yaogan-30 (group 5) satellites into a roughly 600 kilometer orbit inclined by 35 degrees. With few details available, outside observers state that the satellites are likely for reconnaissance use by the People’s Liberation Army.

Attention - Fact - Interstage - Section - Launch

Gaining more attention was the fact that the interstage section of the launch vehicle, colored gray above and attached to the first stage, included four grid fins with apparent resemblance to those used to guide SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters back to landing areas.

The grid fins on the Long March 2C.

China - Aerospace - Science - Technology - Corporation

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the main contractor for China's space programs, stated in a post-launch statement that the stage fell within the designated zone in prefectures within Guizhou province. Footage of first stage falling to Earth in a densely vegetated area was also released on social media.

The test comes in apparent response to increased awareness and visibility of spent boosters falling downrange near populated areas and increased launch activity. Three of China’s four national launch centers were established during the Cold War, with tensions with the United States and Soviet Union prompting the decision for the sites to be located far inland for security reasons. Despite careful rocket flight path design and safety measures on the ground, spent boosters have frequently fallen among towns and villages downrange from Xichang, sometimes damaging property.

CASC - Team - Dozen - Members - Age

According to CASC, a team of one dozen members with an average age of under 35 carried out the research and development of the grid fins, which needed...
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