HONG KONG, April 10 (UPI) -- China has created a new, powerful carrier rocket with military capabilities that can launch multiple satellites into space.
The rocket supports China's strategy of marketing satellites, communications technologies and launch services overseas, especially to oil-producing countries.
At the most recent Zhuhai Air Show, China introduced a high-capacity LM-5D carrier rocket with a diameter of 5 meters at the core section, bundled with one 2.25-meter-diameter booster and two 3.35-meter-diameter boosters.
The carrier rocket has a length of 60 meters, a takeoff weight of 675,000 kilograms and the capacity to send targets of 10,000 kilograms into geostationary transfer orbit. The initial flight of the rocket is expected no later than 2014.
This type of carrier rocket deserves attention, as its advanced upper stage can be integrated with a CZ-5 carrier rocket to directly blast designated equipment to medium Earth orbit and geostationary Earth orbit, or even lunar orbit. The rocket is capable of deploying multiple satellites and has outstanding capability for orbit maneuvering and orbit transfer. It can function in orbit for seven to 10 days.
This advanced-upper-stage rocket is of critical importance for the People's Liberation Army in its research of orbit transfers and orbital killer satellites. The advanced upper stage of the rocket has a diameter of 3.8 meters, and the thrust power of the engine is 35 kilonewtons.
The CZ-5 is likely to be deployed on Hainan Island, where conditions are favorable for the launch of satellites into geosynchronous or geostationary orbits. Most of the United States' ballistic missile early-warning satellites and communications satellites are deployed in this orbit range. The CZ-5 is capable of sending a 25-ton-class satellite into low Earth orbit and a 12-ton-class satellite into geosynchronous orbit.
By the time the rocket is ready for launch, the quality of China's image-reconnaissance satellite will have improved greatly.
At a weight of around 14 tons, it will be on par with the technological standard of the KH-12 image-reconnaissance satellite of the U.S. military.
In recent years, China's export of space technology, including satellites and satellite-launching services, has been closely tied to its attempts to acquire natural resources globally. The LM-5D will put China in a more favorable position, capable of competing with the United States and Russia.
China's sales of space technologies overseas have so far focused on its traditional allies, such as Pakistan, and oil-rich countries like Venezuela and Nigeria. On Oct. 17, China signed a contract with Pakistan to provide a PakSat-1 communications satellite and launching service.
This is China's third such foreign contract. It produced a communications satellite for Nigeria and launched it in May 2007, and it did the same for Venezuela with a successful launch in October 2008.
(Andrei Chang is editor in chief of Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, registered in Toronto. Jeff Chen is a reporter for the same magazine.)