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The Long March 3B is the most powerful Long March launch vehicle for GTO launch missions and is capable of injecting a payload of 5,000kg into GTO. The LM-3B was developed on the basis of the LM-3A, but has enlarged fuel tanks, fairing and four boosters strapped onto the core stage. The LM-3B boosters are identical to that of the LM-3A except that the LM-3B's second stage tanks are longer.

The CZ-3B is very similar to the CZ-3A but with four liquid-fuel strap-on boosters of the type used by the CZ-2E. This addition will nearly double the GTO payload capacity to 4.8 metric tons and provide a 12 metric ton capacity to LEO.

The space program of the People's Republic was again hit hard in 1996 when two of its three commercial missions failed. Having seemingly recovered from the loss of a Long March (Chang Zheng) 2E (LM-2E) early in 1995, which killed six civilians, with the subsequent successful launch of two LM-2Es, China's efforts to establish itself as a major player in the commercial space launch market were dealt another blow when a Long March 3B (LM-3B), on its first flight, exploded 20-25 seconds after takeoff from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on 14 February 1996. The accident destroyed the $125-million Intelsat 708 satellite which was to be used primarily for direct broadcast satellite (DBS) services to Latin America. At least six people were killed and 57 injured. The launch was the second in a series of 10 Intelsats (the first by a Long March rocket) covered under an insurance premium of $185 million purchased by Intelsat in 1994. Premiums for the three Long March launches covered by this package had been set at 13 percent. The loss cost the insurers $205 million.

By 28 March 1996 the Chinese investigation and analysis of the failure determined the cause to be a malfunction of the vehicle's inertial guidance system two seconds after ignition. The failure in the inertial reference system was caused by a failure of output from one of the power modules in the electronic box of the platform. A series of measures were taken to resolve the problem, which were implemented on the LM-3A and LM-3B. At the request of international insurance underwriters and overseas customers, on 14 April 1996 an Independent Review Committee [IRC] was established to conduct an independent review of China's failure investigation findings. The IRC consisted of six experts from the United States, Britain and Germany.

On August 20, 1997, the second flight of LM-3B successfully sent the Philippine Agila 2 MABUHAY satellite into GTO, and on October 17, 1997 the third flight of LM-3B sent the APSTAR-IIR satellite into orbit. On 30 May 1998 LM-3B made a third consecutive successful launch, putting the ChinaStar-1 satellite into orbit.

Breaking a 13-year streak of successful launches, a Chinese Long March 3B rocket failed to deliver Indonesian communications satellite Palapa D1 to its planned orbit on 31 August 2009. The satellite was built for PT Indosat Tbk by Thales Alenia Space (France and Italy). The failure occurred about 20 minutes after liftoff when one of two identical engines in the rocketís upper stage did not deliver its full thrust during its second burn of the mission, resulting in a payload orbit with an apogee of 21,150 km instead of the planned 50,000 km. However, the satellite was maneuvered into a standard geosynchronous transfer orbit on 3 September, and Thales Alenis Space said it was expected to be guided into its final geostationary-orbit position at 113 degrees east longitude by mid-September.

Nevertheless, the maneuver compromised its life, which is now limited to about 10 years vs its design life of 15 years. Hence Indosat would be compensated about $100 million by their insurance underwriter. Because the Long March 3B upper stage had flown satisfactorily 25 times, the fault was deemed to be a straightforward workmanship issue rather than a design failure, allowing the rocket an early return to service.

On 16 January 2016 a Long March-3B carrier rocket was launched with a Belarusian telecom satellite in Xichang of southwest China's Sichuan Province. China sent the Belarusian telecom satellite into the intended orbit from southwest China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The satellite, carried by a Long March-3B rocket, is Belarus' first communication satellite, and this was also the first time that China had launched a satellite for a European country. The Belintersat-1 was built by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. with a designed life of 15 years. It would be put into a geostationary orbit 51.5 degrees east longitude to provide a wide range of telecommunication services, including satellite TV, radio broadcasting and broadband Internet access. This was China's first orbital mission of 2016 and the 223rd launch of the Long march carrier rocket.


Background Information
First Launch:
14 February 1996
Flight Rate:
1 per year
Launch Site:
Xichang Space Launch Center, China
29,900 lb to LEO; 9,900 lb to GTO
4,950 lb to Geosyschronous (with AKM)


  • Chinese rocket program started in the late 1950s
  • Evolved from Chinese surface-to-surface series IRBMs
  • LM-3B is the same as LM-2E first stage with strap-ons, LM-3 second stage, and LM-3A LO2/LH2 third stage


  • Three-stage vehicle with four strap-on boosters
  • Stage 1 consists of four YF-20 motors burning UDMH/N2O4 providing a total thrust of 664,000 lb
  • Stage 2 uses one YF-22 engine and four YF-23 verniers burning UDMH/N2O4 generating a total thrust of 172,400 lb
  • Stage 3 uses two YF-75 engines burning LO2/LH2 providing a thrust of 35,200 lb


190 ft
Launch Weight:
952,000 lb
11 ft
Liftoff Thrust:
1,328,000 lb
Payload Fairing: D>9.56m long X 4.0m diameter





Mass of Propellant (t)








YF-21 (4xYF-20)

YF22(Main) YF23(Vernier)


Engine Trust (kN)


742(main) 47(Vernier)


Engine Specific Impulse (N.Sec/kg)


2911(Main) 2834(Vernier)


Diameter (m)



Lift-off Mass (t)


Overall Length (m)


Fairing Diameter (m)


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Page last modified: 14-02-2016 20:15:07 ZULU