SHANGHAI/BEIJING • China yesterday successfully launched its largest carrier rocket, which was carrying a new-generation spacecraft, state broadcaster CCTV said.
The Long March-5B carrier rocket took off at 6pm local time (1000 GMT) at the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in the southern island province of Hainan. It 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 54m and take-off mass of about 850 tonnes – was also carrying an inflatable cargo return module.
Beijing said in March that 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 the latter half of last month.
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 US to become a major space power by 2030.