Amid coronavirus pandemic, China eyes moon trip with successful rocket launch

James Marshall
May 5, 2020

China said Tuesday it will launch a new rocket at 6pm (1000 GMT), in a test of its ambitions to operate a permanent space station and send astronauts to the Moon.

The new massive provider rocket - Long March 5B - is predicted to make its maiden flight from the Wenchang launch web site within the southern island of Hainan, the China Manned Space Agency stated in an announcement.

This is a significant mission for China's space program, and an interesting comparison point for the ongoing Commercial Crew missions by NASA, which is approaching a major milestone with the first demonstration launch of SpaceX's Commercial Crew spacecraft with astronauts on board on May 27.

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

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

The Long March-5B - with a length of about 53.7 meters and takeoff mass of about 849 tonnes - was also carrying an inflatable cargo return module.

The rocket uses environment-friendly propellants, including liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen and kerosene. It has a takeoff mass of about 849 tonnes and is able to send over 22 tonnes of payloads, equivalent to the weight of more than 10 cars, to low-Earth orbit, which is now the largest low-Earth orbit carrying capacity among China's rockets.

The successful maiden flight verified the design of the rocket.

The rocket will help carry the core module and experiment modules to China's space station.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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