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China Launches Most Powerful Heavy-Lift Rocket

Nov 05, 2016 04:00 AM EDT
A Long March 2F rocket carrying the country's first space laboratory module Tiangong-1 lifts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on September 29, 2011 in Jiuquan, Gansu province of China. (Photo : Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

China launched its biggest rocket yet on November 3. According to reports, the Long March 5 rocket was blasted into space at 8:43 p.m. (Beijing Time), from the country's Wenchang launch center on Hainan Island.

A video of the launch was posted by Wall Street Journal.

Long March 5 or Chang Zheng-5 (Chinese Name) is the basic module for China's new generation of environment-friendly carrier rocket series which aims to enhance China's capability of accessing space. As per NASA, Long March 5 is about as potent as the largest rocket currently available to the US. It is capable of orbiting heavy payload to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) and Low Earth orbit (LEO), and 15.4 tons (14 metric tons) and 27.6 tons (25 metric tons), consecutively.

At 57 meters tall, it is supported by a powerful thrust engine (2.4 million pounds of thrust) that is three times greater than the current Long March 2F rocket, which brought China's second space station, Tiangong-2, into orbit in September, New Scientists reported.

The maiden flight of the Long March 5 will use two core stages with four strap-on boosters. The first stage length is 31.02 meters, with a 5.00 meter diameter while the second stage is 12.00 meters long, with a 5.00 meter diameter.

Not many details were disclosed about the launch as it simply aims to test if the heavy-lift rocket really works. But it was reported that the launcher carried to the GTO, an experimental satellite called Shijian-17, which is designed to test electric-propulsion technology.

The Long March 5 is a crucial piece to China's ambition to securing a reputation of being a major space power.

"The successful launch reflects China's "greatest advancement" in developing a new launcher family for both its un-crewed and crewed space programs," Charles Vick, senior technical & space policy analyst with U.S. think tank globalsecurity.org told Xinhua News.

"Eventually once the Long March-5 has gained high reliability, it will serve several mission for the crewed lunar program efforts and may become the crew launch vehicle for the eventual crewed lunar landing programs in planning," Vick added.

In the future, it will launch the big modules to build China's permanent manned  space station as well as propel their very own lunar and Mars missions.

China hopes to make their 60-ton space station up and running by 2022.

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