China says launch of key new space rocket 'successful'

China says launch of key new space rocket 'successful'

After the drills, it will carry out the debut flight in April to launch the prototype of the country's new manned spaceship, said the China Manned Space Agency.

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 most powerful carrier rocket Long March-5B made its maiden flight on Tuesday, successfully sending the trial version of the country's new-generation manned spaceship and a cargo return capsule for test into space, the state media reported.

The Long March-5B carrier rocket took off at 18:00 local time (10:00 GMT) from the Wenchang Space Launch Center, which is located in the southern island province of Hainan.

At the launch center, the rocket will make ground drills with the prototype of the Chinese space station's core module to verify the launch sequence for the space station.

CASC confirms the successful launch of the Long March 5B.

"The new spaceship will give China an advantage in the area of human spaceflight over Japan and Europe", said Chen Lan, an independent analyst at GoTaikonauts.com, which specialises in China's space programme. Besides, a test version of a cargo return capsule also separated from the rocket.

The message noted that all participating units and personnel had been working in solidarity and overcome difficulties amid the COVID-19 epidemic to achieve the success, which laid a solid foundation for the "third step" of China's manned space program to construct a space station.

The program has developed rapidly, especially since its first crewed mission in 2003, and has sought cooperation with space agencies in Europe and elsewhere. This phase included the launch of Tiangong-1, a transitional platform to test the docking technology and the Tiangong-2 space lab.

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

But Beijing has made huge strides in its effort to catch up, sending astronauts into space, satellites into orbit and a rover to the far side of the Moon. The rocket is the fourth variant of the Long March-5 (LM-5) series.

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