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CZ-2E Space Launch Vehicles

The development of Long March 2E started in late 1988. In 1990 the CZ-2E variant was introduced to give the CZ-2 series of launch vehicles a GTO capability which was specially designed to accommodate Western GEO satellites. The booster consists of a 2-stage core vehicle with four strap-on stages, all employing UDMH and nitrogen tetroxide. The strap-on stages each use a single YF-20B engine which is an improved version of the main engine design used on the first stage of the CZ-2C. Four YF20B engines are combined to make the YF-21B which powers the first stage of the core vehicle, which is more than three meters longer than the CZ-2C first stage. The CZ-2E second stage is also based on its CZ-2C counterpart with an uprated main engine (YF-22B) and larger propellant tanks carrying more than twice the load of the CZ-2C second stages. Finally, a small perigee kick stage is available for payload transfer from a LEO parking orbit to GTO (References 159,162, 163, 166-169). The CZ-2E has a 9.2 metric ton LEO capacity and a 3.1-3.4 metric ton capacity to GTO depending upon the perigee kick stage selected. To perform GTO launch missions, CALT is offering a new version designated LM-2E/EPKM, which has a solid perigee kick motor [EPKM]. LM2E/EPKM is capable of inserting a spacecraft of 3,500 kgs into GTO with orbital inclination of 28 degrees.

The first test of the CZ-2E on 16 July 1990 successfully reached the desired LEO parking orbit with the small (50 kg) Pakistani Badr piggy-back satellite, but an attempt to test the new Chinese perigee kick stage attached to a dummy payload failed. The next mission carried the Australian Optus B1 satellite into orbit on 13 August 1992 after an initial pad launch abort on 22 March of that year. The next flight on 21 December 1992 failed when a malfunction of the payload or shroud occurred less than one minute into the ascent. Despite the violent nature of the failure, which left a large portion of the payload scattered down range, the CZ-2E second stage continued to function and reached a nominal LEO parking orbit. The vehicle flew again successfully on 27 August 1994 with Optus B3 (References 170-179).

After its successful launches of the Long March (Chang Zheng) 2E in 1994, China suffered a serious setback on 25 January 1995 with the explosion of an LM-2E approximately 50 sec. after launch, that killed six persons near the Xichang Satellite Launch Center and injured 27 others by falling debris. The booster, which was carrying the Apstar 2 communications satellite, was destroyed due to wind shear.

Another LM-2E was launched successfully on 28 November 1995, carrying the Lockheed Martin comsat Asiasat 2 into geostationary orbit to provide services for the Hongkong-based Asia Satellite Telecommunications Co. Ltd. Because of the lack of information on the cause of the prior failure (as well as a similar one in December 1992), the insurance premium for the launch was 27 percent, significantly higher than the then-current industry average of 17 percent to 20 percent. On 28 December 1995, a third LM-2E carried the TV-broadcast satellite EchoStar 1 successfully into orbit.

But Long March programme suffered another blow on 4 September 1996 when Hong Kong’s Asia Satellite Telecommunications Co. (Asiasat) filed an insurance claim of $58 million for damage to AsiaSat-2 caused by an alleged “rough ride” during its launch in November 1995 by a Long March 2E (see above). AsiaSat claimed that excessive acceleration caused by the launcher knocked the antenna feed horns of the spacecraft’s nine Ku-band transponders out of alignment, reducing effective coverage and transmission power to the company’s customers.

A number of international customers had cancelled their geosynchronous launch contracts with the Chinese carrier. Restoration of market confidence in the new booster, particularly by the international insurance community, depended on the success of China in launching its backlog of commercial payloads in 1997.

In June 1997 Hughes Telecommunication and Space Co and China Great Wall Industry Corp. agreed to send at least five US-made satellites into orbit on Long March rockets. The cooperation agreement came after several setbacks in the Chinese satellite industry. Recent successful launches using the Long March rockets boosted confidence in the Chinese rockets. Hughes was the first foreign user of Long March rockets, and now, more satellite manufacturers are considering working with Great Wall Industrial.

LM-2E (China)

Background Information
First Launch:
July 1990
Flight Rate:
1-3 per year
Launch Site:
Xichang Space Launch Center, China
19,400 lb to LEO; 7,430 lb to GTO


  • Chinese rocket program started in the late 1950s
  • Evolved from Chinese surface-to-surface series IRBMs
  • LM-2E is enhanced version of the LM-2


  • Two-stage vehicle with four strap-on boosters
  • Stage 1 consists of four YF-20B motors that burn UDMH/N2O4, providing 665,800 lb of total thrust
  • Stage 2 uses one YF-22B engine and four YF-23B verniers burning UDMH/N2O4, generating a total thrust of 177,200 lb
  • Each strap-on booster uses a single YF-20B liquid engine, generating 166,450 lb of thrust each


49.7 meters
Launch Weight:
460,000 kg
3.35 meters
Liftoff Thrust:
1,331,600 lb
Payload Fairing:
39.2 ft x 13.8 ft


Sources and Resources

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