China says launch of key new space rocket 'successful'

Rodiano Bonacci
Mag 6, 2020

- Chinese state media reported the "successful" launch of a new rocket on May 5, a major test of its ambitions to operate a permanent space station and send astronauts to the Moon.

The unmanned spacecraft and its return capsule, which can carry six astronauts at a time, rather than just three, were flung into space aboard a Long March 5B rocket.

"The mission will test the key technologies of the new manned spaceship such as the control of its re-entry into the atmosphere, heat shielding and recovery technology", Yang Qing, a designer of the spaceship with the China Academy of Space Technology, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency in March.

"About 488 seconds later, the experimental manned spacecraft with no crew, together with the test version of the cargo return capsule, separated with the rocket and entered the planned orbit", the CMSA said.

The U.S., however, has banned most space cooperation with China out of national security concerns, keeping China from participating in the International Space Station and prompting it to gradually develop its own equipment. The rocket will help carry the core module and experiment modules to China's space station.

China's earlier launch of 7A model in March and 3B model in April had failed.

One of China's main space exploration ambitions has been to build its own space station as an alternative to the International Space Station, following the country's exclusion from the existing space station by the U.S. over security concerns.

"China has caught up with the United States in some space areas like earth observation and navigation", Chen said.

China has launched 11 manned spacecraft, one cargo spacecraft, Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2, sending 11 astronauts into space, completing the first two steps of the manned space program.

The trial manned spaceship is a new-generation vehicle made to transport astronauts between the Earth and space, developed for the space station operation and the future manned lunar exploration.

The astronaut crew for the four flight missions necessary for the construction of the space station have been selected and are undergoing training, according to Ji. The selection of the third-batch reserve astronauts will be rolled out in the middle of this year.

China initiated the manned space programme in 1992.

"After the launch of the Long March-5, China will launch a series of 20-tonne rockets, including the Long March-5, 6 and 7", Wang Xiaojun, commander-in-chief of the Long March-7, told the daily.

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