China Says It's Successfully Launched Its New Experimental Spacecraft

James Marshall
May 6, 2020

The rocket is capable of operating a permanent space station and send astronauts to the Moon, according to the country's Xinhua news agency.

China ushered into the "third step" of its space programme, which is to construct a space station, by successfully launching the new large carrier rocket Long March-5B and sending the trial version of its new-generation manned spaceship and a cargo return capsule into the space for test, as reported by the official State-run news agency, Xinhuanet on Tuesday.

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 US no longer has its own spaceship since retiring the space shuttle in 2011 and relies on Russian Federation to send astronauts to the International Space Station.

China earlier launched an experimental space station that later crashed back through the atmosphere, and plans to build a larger facility with multiple modules to rival the scale of the International Space Station.

Leader of the command headquarters for the flight mission Zhang Xueyu said the launch had "strengthened confidence and determination" for the next stages of China's space programme. Xinhua emphasized that the Chinese government is pursuing the project while at the same time taking measures against the coronavirus pandemic. Measuring almost 54 meters in length, the new rocket is capable of carrying payloads up to 22 tons to low-Earth orbit, optimal for ferrying space station modules.

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

The new manned spaceship can be used in the operation of China's space station and future manned lunar exploration, Ji said.

The crewmembers to participate in the construction of the space station have been selected and are trained for the missions. The two experiment capsules and scientific payloads are under development.

Astronauts haven't launched into orbit from the United States since NASA's last space shuttle flight in 2011 and the agency has relied on Russia's space program to ferry astronauts to the space station. The selection of the third-batch reserve astronauts will be rolled out in the middle of this year.

"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.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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