Qilu 1, Qilu 4 Rideshare | Long March 6

Lift Off Time
(Subject to change)
April 27, 2021 – 03:20 UTC | 11:20 BJT
Mission Name
Qilu 1, Qilu 4 Rideshare, a rideshare mission with two Qilu satellites as primary payloads
Launch Provider
(What rocket company is launching it?)
Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology
(Who’s paying for this?)
Shandong Province Government and others
Long March 6 (CZ-6)
Launch Location
LA-16, Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, China
Payload mass
unknown, up to 1080 kg for a SSO of 700 km
Where are the satellites going?
into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) with unknown altitude
Will they be attempting to recover the first stage?
No, this is not a capability of the Long March 6
Where will the first stage land?
It will crash in the north eastern region of China
Will they be attempting to recover the fairings?
No, this is not a capability of the Long March 6
Are these fairings new?
This will be the:
– 5th flight of a Long March 6 rocket
– 9th launch of any Long March rocket in 2021
– 34th orbital launch attempt of 2021
Where to watch
Official livestream (if available)

What does all this mean?

This launch of a Chinese Long March 6 (CZ-6) rocket is a rideshare mission with the primary payloads Qilu-1 and Qilu-4. It will take off from launch area 16 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in China and will release the 5 satellites into a Sun-synchronous orbit.

The Payloads

Unfortunately, not much is know about any of the satellites, other than they will be released into a Sun-synchronous low Earth orbit. Since the Long March 6 rocket is China’s small satellite launcher, it can be assumed that the payloads are either SmallSats or CubeSats, with one of them weighing just 37 kg.

Qilu-1 & Qilu-4

Qilu satellites are low Earth orbit reconnaissance satellites, with Qilu-1 utilizing a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) with a resolution of about 0.5m, and Qilu-4 utilizing a multispectral sensor with unknown resolution. The exact purpose these satellites will serve is unknown, but the local government of Shandong Province will be the customer using both satellites.

Other Satellites

As with most Chinese launches, there’s not much information to be found about the payloads. Besides Qilu-1 and Qilu-4, there will also be 3 other satellites which will hitch a ride:

  • Weina Xingkong Weixing (微纳星空卫星)
  • Hangsheng-1 (航升一号)
  • Taikong Caikuang Shiyan Xing (太空采矿试验星等)

Weina Xinkong Weixing will be a micro-nano satellite with unknown purpose, while Taikong Caikuang Shiyan Xing will be a space mining test satellite. Hangsheng-1 is weighing a total of 37 kg and could be the company’s (Hunan Hangsheng Satellite Technology) first test satellite of their planned constellation comprised of 12 remote sensing satellites.

Long March 6

The Long March 6, or Chang Zheng 6 (CZ-6), is a liquid fueled small lift launch vehicle developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) together with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The Long March 6 was developed for Sun-synchronous orbits and can put up to 1080 kg of payloads into such an orbit at an altitude of 700 km.

With a hight of around 29.3 m and a width of 3.35 m at its widest point, it is reminiscent, not only in form, but also in payload capability, of Arianespace’s VEGA rocket.

Long March 6, launch, LM-6, Chang Zheng 6, CZ-6
A Long March 6 (CZ-6) during flight.

LM-6’s First Stage

Long March 6’s first stage is 3.35 m in diameter and powered by one YF-100 engine that is fueled by highly refined kerosene (RP-1) and liquid oxygen (LOx). With a thrust of 1,200 kN at lift off and a specific impulse of 300 s and 335 s at sea level and in a vacuum respectively, the YF-100 engine is an oxygen-rich staged combustion cycle engine.

LM-6’s Second Stage

The second stage is thinner with only 2.25 m in diameter and is powered by one YF-115 engine. Just like the YF-100, the YF-115 is powered by highly refined kerosene (RP-1) and liquid oxygen (LOx). It produces 180 kN in a vacuum at an ISP of 341.5 s. Again, just like the YF-100, the YF-115 is also an oxygen-rich staged combustion cycle engine.

LM-6’s Third Stage

It is unclear what engine or engines the third stage utilizes. Different sources and renders show either one engine that could run on the hypergolic fuels dinetrogen tetroxide (N2O4) and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH), or four YF-85 engines that would run on hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and highly refined kerosene (RP-1). On the website of the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST), they state that the third stage is powered by one YF-50E engine that runs on N2O4 and UDMH. Either way, this third stage has relight capability to put the payloads into custom orbits.

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