Long March 3B
Schematic of the Long March 3B, showing its outboard liquid rocket boosters
FunctionLaunch vehicle
ManufacturerChina Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT)
Country of originChina
Cost per launchUS$50-70 million [1][2][3]
  • 3B: 54.8 m (180 ft) [4]
  • 3B/E: 56.3 m (185 ft) [5]
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft) [4]
  • 3B: 425,800 kg (938,700 lb)
  • 3B/E: 458,970 kg (1,011,860 lb) [5]
Stages3 / 4
Payload to LEO
Mass11,500 kg (25,400 lb) [6][7]
Payload to SSO
Mass7,100 kg (15,700 lb) [6][7]
Payload to GTO
  • 3B: 5,100 kg (11,200 lb) [6][7]
  • 3B/E: 5,500 kg (12,100 lb) [5]
Payload to GEO
Mass2,000 kg (4,400 lb) [7]
Payload to HCO
Mass3,300 kg (7,300 lb) [6][7]
Associated rockets
FamilyLong March
Derivative workLong March 3C
Launch history
  • 3B: Retired
  • 3B/E: Active
Launch sitesXichang LC-2, LC-3
Total launches
  • 86
    • 3B: 12
    • 3B/E: 74
  • 82
    • 3B: 10
    • 3B/E: 72
Partial failure(s)
  • 2
  • 3B: 1 (Palapa-D)
  • 3B/E: 1 (Chinasat 9A)
First flight
Last flight
People or cargo transported
Boosters (3B)
No. boosters4
Height15.33 m (50.3 ft)
Diameter2.25 m (7 ft 5 in)
Propellant mass37,700 kg (83,100 lb)
Powered by1 × YF-25
Maximum thrust740.4 kN (166,400 lbf)
Specific impulse2,556.2 m/s (260.66 s)
Burn time127 seconds
PropellantN2O4 / UDMH
Boosters (3B/E)
No. boosters4
Height16.1 m (53 ft)
Diameter2.25 m (7 ft 5 in)
Propellant mass41,100 kg (90,600 lb)
Powered by1 × YF-25
Maximum thrust740.4 kN (166,400 lbf)
Specific impulse2,556.2 m/s (260.66 s)
Burn time140 seconds
PropellantN2O4 / UDMH
First stage (3B)
Height23.27 m (76.3 ft)
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Propellant mass171,800 kg (378,800 lb)
Powered by4 × YF-21C
Maximum thrust2,961.6 kN (665,800 lbf)
Specific impulse2,556.5 m/s (260.69 s)
Burn time145 seconds
PropellantN2O4 / UDMH
First stage (3B/E)
Height24.76 m (81.2 ft)
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Propellant mass186,200 kg (410,500 lb)
Powered by4 × YF-21C
Maximum thrust2,961.6 kN (665,800 lbf)
Specific impulse2,556.5 m/s (260.69 s)
Burn time158 seconds
PropellantN2O4 / UDMH
Second stage
Height12.92 m (42.4 ft)
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Propellant mass49,400 kg (108,900 lb)
Powered by
Maximum thrust
  • 742 kN (167,000 lbf) (Main)
  • 47.1 kN (10,600 lbf) (Vernier)
Specific impulse
  • 2,922.57 m/s (9,588.5 ft/s) (Main)
  • 2,910.5 m/s (9,549 ft/s) (Vernier)
Burn time185 seconds
PropellantN2O4 / UDMH
Third stage
Height12.38 m (40.6 ft)
Diameter3.0 m (9.8 ft)
Propellant mass18,200 kg (40,100 lb)
Powered by2 × YF-75
Maximum thrust167.17 kN (37,580 lbf)
Specific impulse4,295 m/s (438.0 s)
Burn time478 seconds
PropellantLH2 / LOX
Fourth stage (optional) – YZ-1
Powered by1 × YF-50D
Maximum thrust6.5 kN (1,500 lbf)
Specific impulse315.5 s (3.094 km/s)
PropellantN2O4 / UDMH

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 launch vehicle. 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 second most powerful member of the Long March rocket family after the Long March 5 and the heaviest of the Long March 3 rocket family, and is mainly used to place communications satellites into geosynchronous orbits.

An enhanced version, the Long March 3B/E or G2, was introduced in 2007 to increase the rocket's geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) cargo capacity and lift heavier geosynchronous orbit (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 5 November 2022, the Long March 3B, 3B/E and 3B/G5 have conducted 82 successful launches, plus 2 failures and 2 partial failures, accumulating 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,[8] but outside estimates suggest that anywhere between 200 and 500 people might have been killed.[9] However, the author of the report[9] later ruled out large casualties, because evidence suggest that the crash site was evacuated before the launch.[10]

The Long March 3B and 3B/E rockets conducted ten successful launches between 1997 and 2008.[5]

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.[11] 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.[12] 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 2021, having conducted a total of 26 consecutive successful launches, since 19 June 2017 until 9 March 2020.

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.

In April 2020, the third stage of the Long March 3B/E failed during a Palapa-N1 communications satellite mission; this was the first total failure of the Long March 3B/E.[13]

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 a low Earth orbit (LEO) cargo capacity of 11,200 kg (24,700 lb) and a GTO capacity is 5,100 kg (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 kg (12,100 lb).[14] 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 (MEO).

Long March 3C

Main article: 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 kg (8,400 lb). Its maiden launch took place on 25 April 2008.

Launch statistics

List of launches

Main article: List of Long March launches

Flight number Serial number Date (UTC) Launch site Version Payload Orbit Result
1 Y1 14 February 1996
XSLC, LA-2 3B Intelsat 708 GTO Failure
2 Y2 19 August 1997
XSLC, LA-2 3B Agila-2 GTO Success
3 Y3 16 October 1997
XSLC, LA-2 3B APStar 2R GTO Success
4 Y5 30 May 1998
XSLC, LA-2 3B Chinastar 1 GTO Success
5 Y4 18 July 1998
XSLC, LA-2 3B SinoSat 1 GTO Success
6 Y6 12 April 2005
XSLC, LA-2 3B APStar 6 GTO Success
7 Y7 28 October 2006
XSLC, LA-2 3B SinoSat 2 GTO Success
8 Y9 13 May 2007
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E NigComSat-1 GTO Success
9 Y10 5 July 2007
XSLC, LA-2 3B ChinaSat 6B GTO Success
10 Y11 9 June 2008
XSLC, LA-2 3B ChinaSat 9 GTO Success
11 Y12 29 October 2008
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Venesat-1 GTO Success
12 Y8 31 August 2009
XSLC, LA-2 3B Palapa-D GTO Partial Failure
13 Y13 4 September 2010
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E SinoSat 6 GTO Success
14 Y20 20 June 2011
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 10 GTO Success
15 Y19 11 August 2011
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Paksat-1R GTO Success
16 Y16 18 September 2011
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 1A GTO Success
17 Y18 7 October 2011
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Eutelsat W3C GTO Success
18 Y21 19 December 2011
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E NigComSat-1R GTO Success
19 Y22 31 March 2012
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E APStar 7 GTO Success
20 Y14 29 April 2012
XSLC, LA-2 3B Compass-M3
MEO Success
21 Y17 26 May 2012
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 2A GTO Success
22 Y15 18 September 2012
XSLC, LA-2 3B Compass-M5
MEO Success
23 Y24 27 November 2012
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 12 GTO Success
24 Y25 1 May 2013
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 11 GTO Success
25 Y23 1 December 2013
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Chang'e 3 TLI Success
26 Y27 20 December 2013
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Túpac Katari 1 GTO Success
27 Y26 25 July 2015
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou M1-S
BeiDou M2-S
MEO Success
28 Y32 12 September 2015
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E TJS-1 GTO Success
29 Y33 29 September 2015
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E BeiDou I2-S GTO Success
30 Y36 16 October 2015
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E APStar 9 GTO Success
31 Y34 3 November 2015
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E ChinaSat 2C GTO Success
32 Y38 20 November 2015
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E LaoSat-1 GTO Success
33 Y31 9 December 2015
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E ChinaSat 1C GTO Success
34 Y37 28 December 2015
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Gaofen 4 GTO Success
35 Y29 15 January 2016
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E Belintersat-1 GTO Success
36 Y35 5 August 2016
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E Tiantong 1-01 GTO Success
37 Y42 10 December 2016
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E Fengyun-4A GTO Success
38 Y39 5 January 2017
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E TJS-2 GTO Success
39 Y43 12 April 2017
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Shijian 13 GTO Success
40 Y28 19 June 2017
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Chinasat 9A GTO Partial failure
41 Y46 5 November 2017
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M1
BeiDou-3 M2
MEO Success
42 Y40 10 December 2017
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Alcomsat-1 GTO Success
43 Y45 11 January 2018
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M7
BeiDou-3 M8
MEO Success
44 Y47 12 February 2018
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M3
BeiDou-3 M4
MEO Success
45 Y48 29 March 2018
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M9
BeiDou-3 M10
MEO Success
46 Y55 3 May 2018
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Apstar 6C GTO Success
47 Y49 29 July 2018
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M5
BeiDou-3 M6
MEO Success
48 Y50 24 August 2018
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M11
BeiDou-3 M12
MEO Success
49 Y51 19 September 2018
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M13
BeiDou-3 M14
MEO Success
50 Y52 15 October 2018
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M15
BeiDou-3 M16
MEO Success
51 Y41 1 November 2018
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E BeiDou-3 G1 GTO Success
52 Y53 18 November 2018
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M17
BeiDou-3 M18
MEO Success
53 Y30 7 December 2018
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Chang'e 4 TLI Success
54 Y56 10 January 2019
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 2D GTO Success
55 Y54 9 March 2019
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E ChinaSat 6C GTO Success
56 Y44 31 March 2019
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Tianlian 2-01 GTO Success
57 Y59 20 April 2019
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E BeiDou-3 I1 GTO Success
58 Y60 24 June 24, 2019
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E BeiDou-3 I2 GTO Success
59 Y58 19 August 2019
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 18 GTO Success
60 Y65 22 September 2019
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M23
BeiDou-3 M24
MEO Success
61 Y57 17 October 2019
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E TJS-4 GTO Success
62 Y61 4 November 2019
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E BeiDou-3 I3 GTO Success
63 Y66 23 November 2019
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M21
BeiDou-3 M22
MEO Success
64 Y67 16 December 2019
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M19
BeiDou-3 M20
MEO Success
65 Y62 7 January 2020
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E TJS-5 GTO Success
66 Y69 9 March 2020
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E BeiDou-3 G2 GTO Success
67 Y71 9 April 2020
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Palapa-N1 (Nusantara Dua) GTO Failure [15]
68 Y68 23 June 2020
01:43 [16]
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E BeiDou-3 G3 GTO Success
69 Y64 9 July 2020
12:11 [17]
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Apstar 6D GTO Success
70 Y63 11 October 2020
16:57 [18]
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Gaofen-13 GTO Success
71 Y73 12 November 2020
15:59 [19]
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Tiantong 1-02 GTO Success
72 Y70 6 December 2020
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E Gaofen-14 SSO Success
73 Y74 19 January 2021
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Tiantong 1-03 GTO Success
74 Y77 4 February 2021
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E TJS-6 GTO Success
75 Y72 2 June 2021
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Fengyun 4B GTO Success
76 Y76 5 August 2021
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 2E GTO Success
77 Y78 24 August 2021
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E TJS-7 GTO Success
78 Y86 9 September 2021
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 9B GTO Success
79 Y81 27 September 2021
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Shiyan 10 GTO Success[20]
80 Y83 24 October 2021
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Shijian-21 GTO Success
81 Y79 26 November 2021
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 1D GTO Success
82 Y82 13 December 2021
XSLC, LA-3 3B/E Tianlian II-02 GTO Success
83 Y84 29 December 2021
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E TJS-9 GTO Success
84 Y89 15 April 2022
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 6D GTO Success
85 Y85 12 July 2022
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E Tianlian II-03 GTO Success
86 Y91 5 November 2022
XSLC, LA-2 3B/E ChinaSat 19 GTO Success
87 30 December 2022 XSLC, LA-2 3B/E + YZ-1 BeiDou-3 M25
BeiDou-3 M26
MEO Planned

Flight mishaps and anomalies

Intelsat 708 launch failure

Main article: Intelsat 708

On 14 February 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.

The Xinhua news agency reported that six people were killed and 57 injured. However, the Americans on hand for the launch have testified that "dozens, if not hundreds", of people were seen to gather outside the centre's main gate near the crash site the night before launch.[21] When reporters were being taken away from the site, they found that most buildings had sustained serious damage or had been flattened completely.[21] Other eyewitnesses were noted as having seen dozens of ambulances and many flatbed trucks, loaded with what could have been human remains, being taken to the local hospital.[21]

The cause of the accident was traced to short-circuiting of the vehicle's guidance platform at liftoff.[22]

The participation of Space Systems/Loral in the accident investigation caused great political controversy in the United States. In 1997, the U.S. Defense Technology Security Administration found that China had obtained "significant benefit" from the Review Committee, results of which would improve their "launch vehicles ... ballistic missiles and in particular their guidance systems".

As a result, the U.S. Congress reclassified satellite technology as a munition and placed it back under the restrictive International Traffic in Arms Regulations in 1998.[23] No license to launch United States 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".[24]

Palapa-D partial launch failure

On 31 August 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 years. The 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 a foreign matter or humidity-caused icing in the engine's liquid-hydrogen injectors".[25]

ChinaSat-9A partial launch failure

On 19 June 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.[26] Two weeks later, on 7 July 2017, 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.[27]

Palapa-N1 (Nusantara Dua) launch failure

On 9 April 2020, a Long March 3B launcher failed after lifting off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern Sichuan province at 11:46 UTC during the launch of an Indonesian communications satellite, Palapa-N1 (Nusantara Dua) of a mass of 5500 kg and was expected to enter service in geostationary orbit at 113.0° East, replacing the Palapa-D satellite. But one of the two YF-75 third stage engines failed to ignite, preventing the Palapa-N1 (Nusantara Dua) satellite from reaching orbit.[28] Wreckage from the third stage and the Palapa-N1 spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere, leading to sightings of fiery debris in the skies over Guam. With the Long March 3B failure, Chinese rockets have faltered on two missions in less than a month. A Long March 7A rocket failed to place a satellite in orbit on 16 March 2020 after taking off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on Hainan Island, located in southern China.[29] After two Chinese launch failures in less than a month, further Chinese launches will be likely delayed until it is sure that the quality control is satisfactory.[30]

Controversy regarding booster jettisoning

There have been many confirmed reports and videos of boosters that have been jettisoned and landed in small villages in China. These boosters being hypergolic and highly toxic, there has been large amounts of controversy regarding photos taken of the staged boosters on fire and with civilians standing nearby. These photos ultimately led to questioning of the ethical aspect of the China National Space Administration (CNSA). Debris from the Long March 3B rocket ends up crashing into villages because unlike launchpads for other space agencies which are usually by the coastline, China's main launch pads are inland.[31] Jettisoning rocket boosters to follow a trajectory into the ocean from an inland launch pad is a very hard process as most satellite-carrying rockets follow an almost vertical trajectory until it reaches an apoapsis slightly higher than the Earth's higher atmosphere.

Notable payloads


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