Long March 3B

The Long March 3B (Chinese: 长征三号乙火箭, Chang Zheng 3B), also known as the CZ-3B and LM-3B, is a Chinese orbital carrier rocket. Introduced in 1996, it is launched from Launch Area 2 and 3 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan. A three-stage rocket with four strap-on liquid rocket boosters, it is currently the most powerful member of the Long March rocket family and the heaviest of the Long March 3 rocket family, and is mainly used to place communications satellites into geosynchronous orbits.

Long March 3B
The launch of a Long March 3B carrier rocket at Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
FunctionCarrier rocket
Country of originChina
Cost per launchMore than US $70M (compare Long march 3A cost)
  • 3B: 54.8 m (180 ft)[1]
  • 3B/E: 56.3 m (185 ft)[2]
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft)[1]
  • 3B: 425,800 kg (938,700 lb)[1]
  • 3B/E: 458,970 kg (1,011,860 lb)[2]
Stages3 / 4
Payload to LEO11,500 kg (25,400 lb)[3][4]
Payload to SSO7,100 kg (15,700 lb)[3][4]
Payload to GTO
  • 3B: 5,100 kg (11,200 lb)[3][4]
  • 3B/E: 5,500 kg (12,100 lb)[2][3]
Payload to GEO2,000 kg (4,400 lb)[4]
Payload to HCO3,300 kg (7,300 lb)[3][4]
Associated rockets
FamilyLong March
DerivativesLong March 3C
Launch history
  • 3B: Retired
  • 3B/E: Active
Launch sitesXichang LC-2, LC-3
Total launches
  • 64
    • 3B: 12
    • 3B/E: 52
  • 61
    • 3B: 10
    • 3B/E: 51
Failures1 (3B, Intelsat 708)
Partial failures
  • 2
  • 3B: 1 (Palapa-D)
  • 3B/E: 1 (Chinasat 9A)
First flight
Last flight
  • 3B: 18 September 2012 (Compass M5, M6)
  • 3B/E: Active
Boosters (3B)
No. boosters4
Length15.33 m (50.3 ft)
Diameter2.25 m (7 ft 5 in)
Propellant mass37,700 kg (83,100 lb)
Engines1 × YF-25
Thrust740.4 kN (166,400 lbf)
Specific impulse2,556.2 m/s (260.66 s)
Burn time127 s
FuelN2O4 / UDMH
Boosters (3B/E)
No. boosters4
Length16.1 m (53 ft)
Diameter2.25 m (7 ft 5 in)
Propellant mass41,100 kg (90,600 lb)
Engines1 × YF-25
Thrust740.4 kN (166,400 lbf)
Specific impulse2,556.2 m/s (260.66 s)
Burn time140 s
FuelN2O4 / UDMH
First stage (3B)
Length23.27 m (76.3 ft)
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Propellant mass171,800 kg (378,800 lb)
Engines4 × YF-21C
Thrust2,961.6 kN (665,800 lbf)
Specific impulse2,556.5 m/s (260.69 s)
Burn time145 s
FuelN2O4 / UDMH
First stage (3B/E)
Length24.76 m (81.2 ft)
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Propellant mass186,200 kg (410,500 lb)
Engines4 × YF-21C
Thrust2,961.6 kN (665,800 lbf)
Specific impulse2,556.5 m/s (260.69 s)
Burn time158 s
FuelN2O4 / UDMH
Second stage
Length12.92 m (42.4 ft)
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Propellant mass49,400 kg (108,900 lb)
  • 742 kN (167,000 lbf) (Main)
  • 47.1 kN (10,600 lbf) (Vernier)
Specific impulse
  • 2,922.57 m/s (298.019 s) (Main)
  • 2,910.5 m/s (296.79 s) (Vernier)
Burn time185 s
FuelN2O4 / UDMH
Third stage
Length12.38 m (40.6 ft)
Diameter3.0 m (9.8 ft)
Propellant mass18,200 kg (40,100 lb)
Engines2 × YF-75
Thrust167.17 kN (37,580 lbf)
Specific impulse4,295 m/s (438.0 s)
Burn time478 s
FuelLH2 / LOX
Fourth stage (optional) – YZ-1
Engines1 × YF-50D
Thrust6.5 kN (1,500 lbf)
Specific impulse315.5 s (3.094 km/s)
FuelN2O4 / UDMH

An enhanced version, the Long March 3B/E or G2, was introduced in 2007 to increase the rocket's GTO cargo capacity and lift heavier GEO communications satellites. The Long March 3B also served as the basis for the medium-capacity Long March 3C, which was first launched in 2008.

As of December 2019, the Long March 3B and 3B/E have conducted 61 successful launches, plus one failure and two partial failures, giving them a success rate of 95.3%.


The development of the Long March 3B began in 1986 to meet the needs of the international GEO communications satellite market. During its maiden flight on 14 February 1996 carrying the Intelsat 708 satellite, the rocket suffered a guidance failure two seconds into the flight and destroyed a nearby town, killing at least six people,[5] but outside estimates suggest that anywhere between 200 and 500 people might have been killed.[6] However, the author of the report[6] later ruled out large casualties, because evidence suggest that the crash site was evacuated before the launch.[7]

The Long March 3B and 3B/E rockets conducted ten successful launches between 1997 and 2008.[2]

In 1997, the Agila 2 satellite was forced to use onboard propellant to reach its correct orbit because of poor injection accuracy on the part of its Long March 3B launch vehicle.[8] In 2009, a Long March 3B partially failed during launch due to a third stage anomaly, which resulted in the Palapa-D satellite reaching a lower orbit than planned.[9] Nonetheless, the satellite was able to maneuver itself into the planned orbit. The Long March 3B and its variants remain in active use as of January 2014, having conducted a total of 23 consecutive successful launches.

In December 2013, a Long March 3B/E successfully lifted Chang'e 3, China's first Lunar lander and rover into the projected lunar-transfer orbit.

Design and variants

The Long March 3B is based on the Long March 3A as its core stage, with four liquid boosters strapped on the first stage. It has an LEO cargo capacity of 11,200 kilograms (24,700 lb) and a GTO capacity is 5,100 kilograms (11,200 lb).

Long March 3B/E

The Long March 3B/E, also known as 3B/G2, is an enhanced variant of the Long March 3B, featuring an enlarged first stage and boosters, increasing its GTO payload capacity to 5,500 kilograms (12,100 lb).[10] Its maiden flight took place on 13 May 2007, when it successfully launched Nigeria's NigComSat-1, the first African geosynchronous communications satellite. In 2013, it successfully launched China's first lunar lander Chang'e 3 and lunar rover Yutu.

Since 2015, the Long March 3B and 3C can optionally accommodate a YZ-1 upper stage, which has been used to carry dual launches or BeiDou navigation satellites into medium-Earth orbit.

Long March 3C

A modified version of the Long March 3B, the Long March 3C, was developed in the mid-1990s to bridge the gap in payload capacity between the Long March 3B and 3A. It is almost identical to the Long March 3B, but has two boosters instead of four, giving it a reduced GTO payload capacity of 3,800 kilograms (8,400 lb). Its maiden launch took place on 25 April 2008.

List of Launches

Flight number Date (UTC) Launch site Version Payload Orbit Result
1 February 14, 1996
LA-2, XSLC 3B Intelsat 708 GTO Failure
2 August 19, 1997
LA-2, XSLC 3B Agila-2 GTO Success
3 October 16, 1997
LA-2, XSLC 3B APStar 2R GTO Success
4 May 30, 1998
LA-2, XSLC 3B Chinastar 1 GTO Success
5 July 18, 1998
LA-2, XSLC 3B SinoSat 1 GTO Success
6 April 12, 2005
LA-2, XSLC 3B APStar 6 GTO Success
7 October 28, 2006
LA-2, XSLC 3B SinoSat 2 GTO Success
8 May 13, 2007
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E NigComSat-1 GTO Success
9 July 5, 2007
LA-2, XSLC 3B ChinaSat 6B GTO Success
10 June 9, 2008
LA-2, XSLC 3B ChinaSat 9 GTO Success
11 October 29, 2008
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Venesat-1 GTO Success
12 August 31, 2009
LA-2, XSLC 3B Palapa-D GTO Partial Failure
13 September 4, 2010
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E SinoSat 6 GTO Success
14 June 20, 2011
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 10 GTO Success
15 August 11, 2011
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Paksat-1R GTO Success
16 September 18, 2011
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 1A GTO Success
17 October 7, 2011
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Eutelsat W3C GTO Success
18 December 19, 2011
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E NigComSat-1R GTO Success
19 March 31, 2012
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E APStar 7 GTO Success
20 April 29, 2012
LA-2, XSLC 3B Compass-M3
MTO Success
21 May 26, 2012
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 2A GTO Success
22 September 18, 2012
LA-2, XSLC 3B Compass-M5
MTO Success
23 November 27, 2012
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 12 GTO Success
24 May 1, 2013
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 11 GTO Success
25 December 1, 2013
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Chang'e 3 LTO Success
26 December 20, 2013
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Túpac Katari 1 GTO Success
27 July 25, 2015
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou M1-S
BeiDou M2-S
MEO Success
28 September 12, 2015
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E TJS-1 GTO Success
29 September 29, 2015
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E BeiDou I2-S GTO Success
30 October 16, 2015
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E APStar 9 GTO Success
31 November 3, 2015
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 2C GTO Success
32 November 20, 2015
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E LaoSat-1 GTO Success
33 December 9, 2015
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 1C GTO Success
34 December 28, 2015
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Gaofen 4 GTO Success
35 January 15, 2016
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E Belintersat-1 GTO Success
36 August 5, 2016
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E Tiantong-1-01 GTO Success
37 December 10, 2016
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E Fengyun-4A GTO Success
38 January 5, 2017
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E TJS-2 GTO Success
39 April 12, 2017
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Shijian 13 GTO Success
40 June 19, 2017
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Chinasat 9A GTO Partial Failure
41 November 5, 2017
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M1
BeiDou-3 M2
MEO Success
42 December 10, 2017
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Alcomsat-1 GTO Success
43 January 11, 2018
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M7
BeiDou-3 M8
MEO Success
44 February 12, 2018
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M3
BeiDou-3 M4
MEO Success
45 March 29, 2018
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M9
BeiDou-3 M10
MEO Success
46 May 3, 2018
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Apstar 6C GTO Success
47 July 29, 2018
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M5
BeiDou-3 M6
MEO Success
48 August 24, 2018
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M11
BeiDou-3 M12
MEO Success
49 September 19, 2018
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M13
BeiDou-3 M14
MEO Success
50 October 15, 2018
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M15
BeiDou-3 M16
MEO Success
51 November 1, 2018
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E BeiDou-3 G1 GTO Success
52 November 18, 2018
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M17
BeiDou-3 M18
MEO Success
53 December 7, 2018
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Chang'e 4 LTO Success
54 January 10, 2019
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 2D GTO Success
55 March 9, 2019
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 6C GTO Success
56 March 31, 2019
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E Tianlian 2-01 GTO Success
57 April 20, 2019
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E BeiDou-3 I1 GTO Success
58 June 24, 2019
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E BeiDou-3 I2 GTO Success
59 August 19, 2019
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E ChinaSat 18 GTO Success
60 September 22, 2019
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M23
BeiDou-3 M24
MEO Success
61 October 17, 2019
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E TJSW-4 GTO Success
62 November 4, 2019
LA-2, XSLC 3B/E BeiDou-3 I3 GTO Success
63 November 23, 2019
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M21
BeiDou-3 M22
MEO Success
64 December 16, 2019
LA-3, XSLC 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M19
BeiDou-3 M20
MEO Success

Flight mishaps

Intelsat 708 launch failure

On February 14, 1996, the launch of the first Long March 3B with Intelsat 708 failed just after liftoff when the launch vehicle veered off course and exploded when it hit the ground at T+23 seconds. One person on the ground was killed by the explosion (the total number of casualties is unknown). The cause of the accident was traced to short-circuiting of the vehicle's guidance platform at liftoff.[11] The number of casualties is debated and unclear even decades after the accident. The Chinese official death toll is usually of the order of few casualties, whereas some estimates place the number of people dead to a few hundred (see Intelsat 708-article).

The participation of Space Systems/Loral in the accident investigation caused great political controversy in the United States, since information provided during the accident investigation would help China improve its rockets and ballistic missiles. The U.S. Congress reclassified satellite technology as a munition and placed it back under the restrictive International Traffic in Arms Regulations in 1998.[12] No license to launch U.S. spacecraft on Chinese rockets has been approved by the U.S. State Department since then, and an official at the Bureau of Industry and Security emphasized in 2016 that "no U.S.-origin content, regardless of significance, regardless of whether it’s incorporated into a foreign-made item, can go to China."[13]

Palapa-D partial launch failure

On August 31, 2009, during the launch of Palapa-D, the third stage engine under-performed and placed the satellite into a lower than planned orbit. The satellite was able to make up the performance shortfall using its own engine and reach geosynchronous orbit, but with its lifetime shortened to 10.5 years from the originally projected 15-16. Investigation found that the failure was due to burn-through of the engine’s gas generator, and that "the most likely cause of the burn-through was foreign matter or humidity-caused icing in the engine’s liquid-hydrogen injectors".[14]

ChinaSat-9A partial launch failure

On June 19th, 2017, a Long March 3B/E mission carrying ChinaSat-9A ended in partial failure. Officials did not release details regarding the status of the mission for at least 4 hours after liftoff.[15] Two weeks later, on July 7th, officials confirmed that the mission had been anomalous, with Space Daily reporting that "an anomaly was found on the carrier rocket's rolling control thruster, part of the attitude control engine, during the third gliding phase". The failure in the rocket's third stage left the payload in a lower than intended orbit, and the payload was forced to spend two weeks reaching its intended orbit under its own power.[16]


  1. Mark Wade. "CZ-3B". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Archived from the original on 19 March 2008. Retrieved 26 April 2008.
  2. "LM-3B". China Great Wall Industry Corporation. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  3. "LM-3A Series Launch Vehicle User's Manual - Issue 2011" (PDF). China Great Wall Industries Corporation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-07-17. Retrieved 2015-08-09.
  4. Gunter Krebs. "CZ-3B (Chang Zheng-3B)". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 26 April 2008.
  5. Select Committee of the United States House of Representatives (3 January 1999). "Satellite Launches in the PRC: Loral". U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  6. Lan, Chen. "Mist around the CZ-3B disaster". The Space Review. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  7. Lan, Chen. "Mist around the CZ-3B disaster (part 2)". The Space Review. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  8. International reference guide to space launch systems. Fourth edition. p. 243. ISBN 1-56347-591-X.
  9. ""帕拉帕-D"通信卫星未能进入预定轨道". Xinhua. 31 August 2009. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  10. "LM-3B". China Great Wall Industry Corporation. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  11. "Satellite Launches in the PRC: Loral". CNN. 25 May 1999. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  12. Zelnio, Ryan (January 9, 2006). "A short history of export control policy". The Space Review.
  13. de Selding, Peter B. (April 14, 2016). "U.S. ITAR satellite export regime's effects still strong in Europe". SpaceNews.
  14. de Selding, Peter B. (19 November 2009). "Burn-through Blamed in China Long March Mishap". SpaceNews. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  15. http://spaceflight101.com/long-march-3b-zhongxing-9a-launch/
  16. http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Chinese_satellite_Zhongxing_9A_enters_preset_orbit_999.html
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