China's Long March 5 Rocket Finally Launched in Space
China is at it again as its space agency successfully launched the heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket on Nov. 3.
This is a move that reinforces China's plan to build its own space station, next to sending its second space lab, Tiangong-2, in space. Last month, China also sent three astronauts to man Tiangong-2 for a total of 30 days. The manned mission is also in preparation for the Chinese space station.
The Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket lifted off from the launch pad in Wenchang Hainan Island in the southern Chinese coast. Following the Chinese custom of not revealing too much about its space mission, there is very little information available about the rocket and its mission. But reports say that the rocket is carrying a payload of the Shijian-17 experimental satellite; the satellite is believed to be capable of testing electric propulsion technology.
But the goal of the mission is to test the heavy-lift rocket. The rocket is composed of two stages that are 187 feet (57 meters) long. Reports say that the rocket can lift 27.6 tons (25 metric ton) of payload to the low-Earth orbit (LEO) and a total of 15.4 tons (14 metric tons) in father distance based on the calculations of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.
This makes the Long March 5 rocket almost similar to United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy launcher. China is making progress when it comes to building it space station and the Long March 5 rocket is an integral part of building it. The rocket will be tasked to carry the main modules of the 60-ton space station. China is hopeful that the space station will be operational by 2022.
By 2024, the International Space Station (ISS) will retire and if China succeeded in launching its own version of a floating space lab, the Chinese space station may be the only operational science laboratory by 2024.
The rocket will carry Chang'e-5, a sample-return mission to the moon scheduled to launch next year, according to a report by Space.com. Despite the loss of China's first experimental space lab Tiangong-1, most of its launches seemed to be in place paving the way for a successful Chinese space station. This came after the Chinese president expressed his intent to become the next space giant in the world.