China launch of key new space rocket ‘successful’: State media

BEIJING: Chinese state media reported the “successful” launch of a new rocket on Tuesday (May 5), a major test of its ambitions to operate a permanent space station and send astronauts to the Moon.

The large carrier rocket Long March-5B took off from the Wenchang launch site in the southern island of Hainan and entered its planned orbit, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

It is a prototype spacecraft with no crew separated, the Xinhua report said.

The launch was the first mission carried out by the Long March-5B, CCTV reported, citing the China Manned Space Engineering Office.

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

China said in March it was aiming to launch an experimental spacecraft without a crew as part of a broader spaceflight programme to shuttle astronauts to its future space station and for future manned space exploration. The launch was earlier scheduled for mid- to late April.

China aims to complete a multi-module, inhabited space station around 2022. It became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket in 2003 after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

China has since been racing to catch up with Russia and the United States to become a major space power by 2030.

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