Cosmodromes closer to the equator – Wenchang tropical cosmodrome

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Cosmodromes closer to the equator - Wenchang tropical cosmodrome

Wenchang Cosmodrome on about. Hainan, launch of the CZ-5 rocket and the future of this spaceport

Cosmic benefits of the equator

Why are spaceports located at the equator? In short: due to the facilitation of the achievement by the payload (PN) of the desired speed in orbit of the Earth. And to reduce fuel consumption when changing / decreasing orbital inclination, bringing the orbital inclination to zero (for example, to launch into a geostationary orbit).

The radius of the Earth is R = 6378 km (at the equator). Earth Equator Length


For a day, any point on the equator scrolls precisely at such a distance, one such revolution of our planet takes 24 hours. Dividing the length of the equator in km by 24 * 3600 seconds, we get that the linear velocity of the earth's surface at the equator is 0.464 km / sec, almost half a kilometer per second. This horizontal speed cannot push the rocket up, but this speed is added to the horizontal (more precisely, the orbital) speed of the upper stage and the LN, flying no longer upward, but parallel to the Earth’s surface along the equator (at the end of the LN’s orbit). Of course, this is an ideal case, typical for the satellite’s launch into the geostationary orbit (which passes exactly above the equator), from the cosmodrome also located exactly at the equator. For orbits with an inclination to the equatorial plane (the farther from the equator the cosmodrome, the more, alas, the inclination), not all the speed obtained when the rocket starts from the rotation of the earth's surface will be a useful addition. Only that part of the speed that is parallel to the plane of the future orbit is useful.

At the latitude of Baikonur, the Earth’s circumference at a given latitude is shorter, but a point on this circle turns around in the same 24 hours, therefore in the Baikonur region the linear speed is 0.316 km / sec, and at the Plesetsk latitude of only 0.212 km / sec – more than two times slower than at the equator.

To enter the Earth’s orbit, one needs to gain an orbital speed equal to 7.9 km / s. Obviously, half a kilometer per second will not be superfluous here, this increase in speed is quite noticeable – 1/16 of the desired speed of the displayed spacecraft (payload). Therefore, it makes sense to build spaceports directly at the equator or closer to it.

It is clear that if the state there (closer to the equator) does not have its territory, then it remains either to rent a place there under the cosmodrome (as it was planned to do in 2001 on Christmas Island at 10 degrees south latitude from the equator – the project got stuck in 2003 and it seems for a long time) or chasing a floating cosmodrome across the ocean (as was done in the Sea Launch project).

In this sense, the European Union and its space agency were lucky: France had a colony lying under the name of French Guiana in South America. There, Europeans built by 1968 the Guiana Space Center cosmodrome near the town of Kourou. As a result, the Kuru cosmodrome (as it is often called) is located at a latitude of just over 5 degrees north of the equator, missiles (including Russian Soyuz-2 licensed) at launch from this place receive close to maximum gratuitous 463 m / sec The difference in the gratuitous increase in the PN orbital speed for the four spaceports (two Russian, one American and one European in Kourou) is visible in the picture below:

If you look at the list of all the ever existing cosmodromes in the world, you can see that almost right at the equator, besides the Kuru cosmodrome, there are two more launch sites:

The first is the Brazilian cosmodrome of Alcantara near the city of San Luis – it was built since 1983, it has been operating since 1990, but because of accidents and catastrophes, nothing came into orbit of the Earth. Geophysical rockets from it rose to heights of up to 956 km, but then fell down – the finest hour of this cosmodrome is still in the future. This spaceport is even closer to the equator (2 degrees south latitude) and is located 1200 km from Kuru.

The second forgotten equatorial spaceport is something unusual: the world's first sea-based spaceport of San Marco or the Luigi Broglio Space Center, built by Italians in 1964 off the coast of Kenya, near the city of Malindi, 2.5 degrees south latitude. The spaceport was imprisoned for a single American “conversion” four-stage Scout launch vehicle, the world's first fully solid fuel launch vehicle with a modest payload weight of 160 to 210 kg. The cosmodrome is located on three platforms, the old oil platforms were used for construction. Since 1988, this spaceport has been mothballed, and there are no planned launches from there yet.

There are several more safe places on the planet for terrestrial equatorial spaceports (Galapagos, Maldives, Indonesia – the northern parts of Papua New Guinea), where the rocket will fly over the sea and several high mountains (Mount Kenya and its environs in Kenya, the Chimborasa volcano and its environs), where at the start of the rocket with a pitch to the east (so that the speed of rotation of the Earth's surface is added to the speed of the rocket), the worked steps will not fall on a particularly densely populated e areas, but still there is a settlement. But all these places are located in poorly developed or even quite wild places of not the most developed countries of the world.

China's new southern spaceport

In one fairly developed country in the world, eager to dominate in many areas, in 2007 they decided to build a spaceport on its territory, but as far south as possible, closer to the equator. This country is China, and among the southernmost territories China has a huge resort island of Hainan at 18-19 degrees north latitude, playing in many respects the same role in China that the USSR played (and plays for Russia) Crimea – the famous "All-Union health resort ". It is not known how much the resort theme of Hainan Island hindered the earlier start of the construction of the cosmodrome in this good place, but it is believed that the Chinese government had previously been concerned about the vulnerability of the cosmodrome in Hainan to enemy attacks in case of war. By the 21st century, China has gained such enormous weight in the naval and air forces (and in strategic missiles) that it was simply ridiculous to drag on with a landmark decision because of the imaginary vulnerability of the spaceport. After all, the old cosmodromes of China are located far to the north in deserts or in the mountains. The rocket take-off paths from there often pass over densely populated places, which causes serious problems – a lot has been said about this in a colorful and colorful way.

About 1,200 hectares were allocated under the new cosmodrome in the city district of Wenchang (文昌) near the city of Wenchang (Wénchāng), in the northeast of Hainan Island. The place for the Wenchang cosmodrome (officially the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site or Chinese 文昌 航天 发射场) was located right on the seashore, almost in the easternmost part of the island. Thus, rockets soaring eastward fly further over the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, just in the interval between Fr. Taiwan from the north and the Philippines from the south. About areas of falling steps, only sea vessels and ships should be warned, without fear of falling steps on settlements. The spaceport is located at 19 degrees north latitude, which is closer to the equator than the main American spaceport at Cape Canaveral (28 degrees), but further from the equator than the Kourou spaceport (5 degrees) and the main Indian spaceport at 13 degrees north latitude on about. Srisharikota.

In a densely populated country like China, on the resort island of Hainan, of course, it was impossible to allocate 1,200 hectares by the sea without settlements, therefore, in the first year, when breaking down the cosmodrome, it was necessary to relocate about 6,000 residents from two completely demolished villages and close two border posts (of which remained on the cosmodrome observation towers). Residents lost their native penates by the sea in the shade of coconut trees, which made up most of the vegetation of the future cosmodrome. On Hainan Island (and especially in Wenchang City County), huge areas are occupied by endless, both wild-growing and cultivated coconut groves. In the port and resort city of Wenchang, located 15-18 km south, there is even a large Coconut Research Institute (CATAS) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences:

We can say that the Wenchang cosmodrome is a tropical (almost equatorial) cosmodrome in the resort area. As, in principle, the American spaceport them. Kennedy at Cape Canaveral in Florida – there is also a resort.

Wenchang cosmodrome, which was late by 2016 (instead of 2014), cost China an unnamed round sum (in any case, there is still a lot of money left in the PRC treasury). Below is one photo with the launch pad LC-1 of this spaceport under construction:

Also adjacent to the cosmodrome from the northeast (included in the perimeter of the cosmodrome) is a hotel complex, residential buildings and a sanatorium for space industry workers.

At the same time, on the northern outskirts of the cosmodrome, a medium-sized theme park was built for tourists who want to visit the cosmodrome, worth 7 billion yuan (about $ 875 million), which was never completely completed (several buildings are empty and abandoned) and by December 2019 suddenly suspended its work (possibly due to bankruptcy of the owner’s company). But the trade in space souvenirs in the pavilion near the thematic remained and buses with Chinese tourists are still stopping there.

Foreigners (even "compatriots" from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) were not allowed to go on excursions around the cosmodrome before (this is officially written in English in the visiting rules posted on the theme park building).

It is a little strange that, despite the obvious sympathy of the Chinese government for huge construction projects, a separate port / pier was not built on the northern shore of the Wenchang city deep bay for the new cosmodrome (but this omission can be corrected later). Missile parts from the factory are still being delivered by two specialized vessels Yuan Wang 21 and Yuan Wang 22 via the usual Quinglan cargo port "rel =" nofollow "> (see video here) on the south coast of the bay, and then through the city’s blocked streets (freed from ordinary automobile transport) and the suspension bridge over the bay (further along the usual freeway) "rel =" nofollow "> powerful tractors slowly pull oversized rocket parts packed in containers to the spaceport.

The delivery of parts of the CZ-5 rocket for the third launch was completed at the end of October 2019. At that moment I already knew a lot about the importance of launching this rocket for China, why it was developed and how the unsuccessful second launch of the CZ-5 (July 2 2017) jeopardized the further ambitious Chinese lunar program and the entire program for the construction of a large modular Chinese orbital station of 3 modules of 20 tons each.

How to go and see the launch of a Chinese rocket?

Having estimated all the factors, I decided that the Chinese comrades would break into a cake, but launch the CZ-5 missile before the end of 2019, and since the price of repeated failure is too high for them, they will be especially careful and not careful in collecting, testing the rocket. This means that the launch will be in the last 10 days of the year, but not on the 31st – in the English version of the article on CZ-5 on Wikipedia then it was indicated as the launch period on December 20-31, 2019.

Already buying tickets to about. Hainan and having booked a hotel at the cosmodrome, I found that the English version of the Wikipedia article on the CZ-5 rocket already contains the planned launch date: December 27, 2019. A user on December 1 made this amendment in the English version and referred to this Chinese source in space forums: – there the start date was already determined on November 29 (and immediately corrected the Chinese version of the article). It looks like the dates on this forum can be trusted.

Having settled in the hotel on the 20th, I was glad that the balcony of my room opens onto the launch pad, located just 5 km away (the hotel has a couple of buildings that are even closer). Between the hotel and the fishing village at the very fence of the cosmodrome and a couple of sanatoriums near it, there is an active construction of cottage apartments and a guest complex, also located on a hill, so that in the future it will be possible to settle comfortably and with even more breathtaking views of the main Chinese cosmodrome from a distance of only 4 km.

On the morning of December 21, going to the balcony of my room, I saw the conveyor delivering the assembled CZ-5 rocket to the launch pad in an upright position – photo below:

Pretty quickly, the transporter drove the rocket to the launch pad.

Two assembly shops in the northern part of the cosmodrome for CZ-5 and CZ-7 type rockets are connected to two launching tables LC-1 (for CZ-5) and LC-2 (for CZ-7) with embankments and multi-gauge railways of a strange configuration – separate branches coming out of two assembly shops are combined into one common one, then again divided into two separate branches to two launching tables. Moreover, for the heavy CZ-5 launch vehicle, the road is entirely straight (marked with a red line), 2.8 km long, and for the CZ-7 medium-class rocket, the railway track has two roundings:

On the launch pad, the rocket stood in open form for several hours, and then was covered with special covers from the weather. For a tropical cosmodrome, this is not an extra precaution, because the climate on Hainan is very humid and rainy (1500-2000 mm of precipitation per year), it rains for about 100 days a year, there are thunderstorms and even typhoons (but not in December). Starting tables are located 800 meters from the shore, on a gentle hill. The sea in this area is shallow, with reefs (breakers are visible 1-2 km from the coast), so starting tables are quite protected from a small tsunami and typhoons. Of course, their service towers for checking and refueling missiles are located on the sea side, covering the missile. These service towers also attach a light casing, divided into three levels, folding in half to the right and left, covering the rocket from precipitation. Details are visible in the official photos.

From the beach, these starting tables look like this:

– This is LC-1 for the "five" CZ-5.

– This is LC-2 for the "seven" CZ-7.

The rest of the days were testing and testing the rocket and launch pad equipment.
The launch pad in the evenings of the LC-1 was lit up and looked like this (when closed):

On December 24, on the roads closest to the sea shore, advertisements about places for additional parking lots for cars began to be put out, brigades of electricians checked lighting and video cameras on the shore and on highways. A police delegation arrived at the hotel to check fire safety measures.

Rocket launch festivities

On December 27, morning onlookers gathered at all the beaches. The people took places seriously and for a long time, some even brought tents with them.

In the morning there were among the public rocket launchers from the launch site in characteristic light blue trousers and jackets with the Chinese flag above the left breast pocket. Photographers occupied the surrounding coastal cliffs, putting up their tripods there. Over 5-7 km of the shore there were: numerous police, firefighters (right in helmets), rescuers in blue uniform with a tent posters about their rescue center, combatants with red armbands and even some nurse girls in bright vests (probably volunteers )

The atmosphere was cheerful (despite the cooling, low cloud cover, the increasing wind and hints of rain), music played, everyone except the police had fun. The police were on duty in the morning, fenced wet rocks so that the public did not fall into the turbulent sea. By seven in the evening, some of the policemen could not even stand on their feet and sat on the rocks or squatting.

The nearest hotel (where I lived), some company producing SUVs, as well as various companies developing resort beaches and other organizations in the park on the hill and on the beach, many posters, tables with souvenirs, advertisements were displayed. There were many models of rockets and stands for photographing:

In general, the people had fun themselves and they were amused by those who wanted to earn money on this event. So cosmonautics penetrates the life of the common people and stays there forever.

Expected evening launch – quick and short

At around 5 p.m., both coast guard patrol ships that loomed in the sea opposite, went far to the side. On the LC-1 launch pad, the casing was removed and the CZ-5 refueling rocket, ready for launch, became visible with characteristic sultans from cooling the cryogenic contents of the tanks (photo taken at 20:30):

The hotel had two versions, when a start was scheduled for the time: some said that at 10 o’clock in the evening, others that between 8 and 10 o’clock in the evening. I went to the balcony a few minutes to eight hours and tried to photograph the launch pad with a rocket.
At eight o’clock and the next 10-15 minutes, there wasn’t much activity on the launch pad – you could see liquefied oxygen evaporating through binoculars (watch the video here or “rel =" nofollow "> here). I was distracted, waiting for the start at 22 o’clock and thinking that the crowd gathered from below on the lawn of the hotel would warn people around with shouts. He left the door to the balcony open and sat half-turned. At 20:44 with seconds, an orange light cut through my eyes from the side and there were quiet, surprised cries of the audience, which this start also took by surprise I managed to record a video авшейся ракеты с отражением от моря – ракета быстро ушла в низкую облачность, продолжая светить оранжевым сквозь облака еще полминуты. Только через 10-15 секунд после отрыва по ушам ударил разрывающий рев выхлопа со стартового стола в пяти километрах (он есть на видео тут или " rel="nofollow">тут).

На " rel="nofollow">официальном видео запуска видно насколько мал период между зажиганием и отрывом ракеты от стартового стола. Такое впечатление, что двигатели первой ступени вышли на максимальную тягу за 4-5 секунд.

Официальное время старта было объявлено потом как 20:45, но по моим часам зажигание и отрыв произошли чуть раньше. Через 40-50 минут в интернете и на телевидении стали появляться сообщения, что пуск и выход спутника на переходную орбиту прошли успешно! Выведенный на геостационарную орбиту коммуникационный спутник «Шицзянь-20» стал первым китайским космическим аппаратом, основанным на новой платформе DFH-5. Спутник более тяжелый и мощный, чем его предшественник «Шицзянь-18», потерянный при неудачном старте 2 года назад. Новый старт позволил проверить, насколько исправлены недочеты в турбонасосах двигателей YF-77 (из первой ступени, но не из боковых ускорителей), недостаточная тяга которых и привела к неудаче в 2017 году.

Как простой наблюдатель я могу констатировать факт: космодромам в курортных зонах — быть! Уровень надёжности современной космической техники и зоны безопасности вокруг стартовых столов почти в пределах самого космодрома (радиус 2 км от места старта) дают достаточные гарантии безопасности для публики, а использование в первых двух ступенях ракет обычной пары керосин + кислород не несут опасности химического загрязнения земли, воды или воздуха. В перспективе и третьи ступени ракет будут основаны на паре водород + кислород. Сами космодромы являются явными и популярными достопримечательностями курортных регионов, вызывают интерес, как у местных туристов, так и у приезжих. Запуски с таких космодромов превращаются в бесплатное шоу для народа, на котором неплохо наживается специализированная и обычная торговля. В окрестностях космодрома развивается не только дорожная сеть и коммуникации, но и происходит активное жилищное/курортное строительство, развитие инфраструктуры, неизбежно дорожает новая недвижимость у космодрома, которая становится престижной не только из-за появления новых покупателей (работников космодрома), но по причине того, что из неё (рядом с ней) удобно наблюдать запуски ракет. Проще говоря, жить в таком районе становится просто престижно.

Перспективы космодрома Вэньчан

Перспективы данного космодрома пока полностью основаны на возможностях двух ракет из нового семейства: тяжелой CZ-5 (ПН до 25 тонн) и средней CZ-7 (ПН до 13.5 тонн).

Ракета CZ-5 по весу полезной нагрузки является аналогом нашей многострадальной «Ангары-А5». CZ-5 официально разрабатывалась с 2007 года, но двигатели YF-75 и YF-100 под эту ракету начали разрабатывать гораздо раньше: в 2000-2001 годах.


Удачно стартовавшую в 2 из 3 запусков «пятерку» CZ-5 (и космодром, построенный под «пятерку» и «семерку») ждет очень насыщенный трудовой график:

    Первый пробный запуск ракеты в двухступенчатом варианте CZ-5B. Что будет выведено на орбиту в ходе этого тестового запуска не совсем понятно, пишут, что это какой-то прототип китайского пилотируемого космического корабля нового поколения. Но зачем ему быть таким тяжелым, целых 20 тонн? (ведь текущий пилотируемый корабль КНР «Шэньчжоу» весит менее 8 тонн, его можно запускать и с помощью CZ-7). Возможно, это будет просто массово-габаритный макет модуля китайской орбитальной станции), однако в некоторых источниках пишут, что в октябре 2020 будет с помощью CZ-5B запущен уже сам новый пилотируемый корабль, не прототип.
    В июле 2020 ракета CZ-5 должна отправить на Марс первый КА на марсианской орбите, посадочный аппарат и первый китайский марсоход (сделан на основе лунохода «Юту»). Пока эта миссия предварительно названа HX-1 (Huoxing-1).
    В последнем квартале 2020 года ракета CZ-5 должна запустить к Луне посадочный аппарат «Чанъэ-5», который должен собрать на Луне и доставить обратно на Землю более 2 кг лунного грунта. И повторить тоже самое с аппаратом «Чанъэ-6» в 2024 году.
    Окончательной проверкой для CZ-5B станет запуск в 2020-21 году базового модуля «Тянхэ» весом в 24 тонны для китайской модульной орбитальной станции. За 2021-22 годы для этой станции также должны быть запущены два лабораторных модуля «Вэньтянь» и «Мэнтянь» по 20 тонн весом.
    А также CZ-5 в 2024 году будет выводить в космос орбитальный телескоп «СюньТянь» с зеркалом диаметром 2 метра и с возможностью причаливать к китайской орбитальной станции. Запланирован для CZ-5 и запуск КА SPORT (Solar Polar Orbit Telescope) с облетом Солнца со стороны его полюсов.


Ракета CZ-7 имеет неформальное наименование из-за своей формы: на китайском 冰箭 – что означает «Ледяная стрела». В боковых ускорителях и первой ступени ракеты используются те же двигатели YF-100 что и в боковых ускорителях CZ-5. Эту ракету среднего класса (масса ПН до 13.5 тонн) тоже уже испытали на космодроме Вэньчан в ходе двух удачных пусков:

    25 июня 2016 года произошел успешный пробный запуск CZ-7 c экспериментальной уменьшенной моделью спускаемого аппарата.
    20 апреля 2017 состоялся запуск CZ-7 для выведения на орбиту грузового автоматического корабля «Тяньчжоу» весом около 8 тонн с 4 тоннами груза.
    Далее CZ-7 будет выводить на орбиту уже опробованные грузовики «Тяньчжоу» для снабжения свой орбитальной станции.
    Впоследствии новая ракета-носитель CZ-7 заменит старую ракету-носитель CZ-2F, с помощью которой выполняются (c 1999) запуски китайских пилотируемых космических кораблей типа «Шэньчжоу».

Если пилотируемый КА «Шэньчжоу» будет доработан/изменен для полетов к новой орбитальной станции или на Луну, то запас по выводимой ПН позволит CZ-7 работать и с этими КА.

Сверхтяжелая CZ-9?

И если когда-нибудь китайское космическое агентство захочет построить и запустить сверхтяжелую ракету-носитель под названием CZ-9 (а такие планы есть,, то космодром Вэньчан можно расширить вдоль берега на юг (с севера, увы, уже построены отели и жилые районы работников космодрома), выселив ещё одну деревню и вырубив очередные сотни гектаров кокосового леса. Однако для такой сверхтяжелой ракеты (с основным корпусом диаметром в 10 метров) понадобится уже специальный порт поближе к космодрому и специальная прямая дорога от него.

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  .(tagsToTranslate)Newsland(t)новости(t)свежие новости(t)Космодромы поближе к экватору — тропический космодром Вэньчан