FAS | Space | Guide | China | Launch |||| Index | Search |

CZ-3 Space Launch Vehicle

The CZ-3 launch vehicle was introduced in 1984 to provide the PRC with its initial GEO mission capability. The vehicle also marked the first use of a high technology upper stage and led to China's entry into the commercial space launch services market. The CZ-3 is a 3-stage launch vehicle with the first two stages essentially identical to the CZ-2C. The third stage utilizes a restartable, liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen engine designated YF-73. The GTO capacity of the CZ-3 is 1.5 metric tons (References 159, 164, 180-184).

Although the inaugural flight of the CZ-3 on 29 January 1984 failed when the third stage did not restart to maneuver from a LEO parking orbit to GTO, the next six missions (April, 1984 - April, 1990) were successful. Only one CZ-3 mission was attempted during 1991-1993, and this flight resulted in the stranding of a domestic PRO communications satellite in the wrong orbit. Lift-off occurred on 28 December 1991, and orbital insertion into the planned LEO was accomplished. However, when the third stage was reignited, a propellant pressurization malfunction caused a premature shut-down, leaving the payload with an apogee of only 2,450 km instead of nearly 36,000 km as required. The CZ-3 returned to flight on 21 July 1994, successfully inserting the APstar 1 spacecraft in GTO on a commercial mission (References 185 and 186).

The space program of the People's Republic was again hit hard in 1996 when two of its three commercial missions failed. A LM-3 failed on August 18, when its payload, a Hughes HS-376 satellite called the ChinaSat-7 (Zhongxing 7) was left in an unusable orbit due incomplete burn of the third stage of the rocket. A successful launch of a LM-3 occurred on July 3, launching China's communications satellite Apstar 1A.

The People's Republic's space program showed strong signs of recovery during 1997, launching a CZ-3 from Xichang on 10 June 1997 carrying the country's first geosynchronous weather satellite (Feng Yun 2).

LM-3 (China)

Background Information
First Launch:
January 1984
Flight Rate:
2-3 per year
Launch Site:
Xichang Space Launch Center, China
3,100 lb to GTO, 31.1 degrees
11,000 lb to LEO
2,100 lb to Earth Escape Trajectory


  • Chinese rocket program started in the late 1950s
  • Evolved from Chinese surface-to-surface (CSS) series IRBMs
  • LM-3 is enhanced version of the LM-2; addition of a cryogenic upper stage


  • Three-stage liquid fueled vehicle
  • Stage 1 consists of four YF-20 motors burning UDMH/N2O4 providing a total thrust of 625,800 lb
  • Stage 2 uses one YF-22 engine burning UDMH/N2O4 providing a total thrust of 172,100 lb
  • Stage 3 uses one YF-73 engine burning LOX/LH2 providing a thrust of 9,900 lb


144 ft
Launch Weight:
444,400 lb
11 ft
Liftoff Thrust:
625,800 lb
Payload Fairing:
19.2 ft x 8.5 ft


Sources and Resources

FAS | Space | Guide | China| Launch |||| Index | Search |

Implemented by Christina Lindborg, 1997 Scoville Fellow
Maintained by Webmaster

Updated Friday, June 19, 1998 9:14:23 AM