China’s newest and biggest heavy-lift rocket was successfully launched today, Nov 3, 2016, testing out China’s latest rocket along with bringing an experimental satellite designed to test electric-propulsion technology.
The Long March 5 rocket blasted off from the Wenchang launch center on Hainan Island, off China’s southern coast, at 8:43 a.m. EDT (12:43:14 UTC; 8:43 p.m. Beijing time).
Although Chinese space officials have not released many details about the mission or the new rocket, reportedly the Long March-5, (or the Chang Zheng-5, CZ-5) gives China a launch vehicle with similar launch capability to the Delta 4 Heavy or ESA’s Ariane 5, which is twice the capability of China’s Long March-3 (CZ-3).
The 187-foot-tall (57-meter) Long March-5 is powered by 10 liquid-fueled engines, which reportedly generate about 2.4 million pounds of thrust.
The increase in capability is seen as essential for China’s long-range space goals for a bigger and permanently-staffed space station, missions to the Moon, a robotic mission to Mars and the launch of commercial satellites.
The @ChinaSpaceflight Twitter account tweeted this image the launch control center when the YZ-2 upper stage fired:
— ChinaSpaceflight (@cnspaceflight) November 3, 2016
The Long March-5 is a large, two-stage rocket with a payload capacity of 25 tons to low-Earth orbit. According to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the developer of the Long March-5, the rocket uses kerosene, liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, moving away from more toxic propellants like hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide. This makes the new rocket not only less expensive to launch but more environmental friendly.
Today’s launch is the second from the new Wenchang launch complex. This past summer, on June 25, China’s new medium-sized Long March-7 made its initial launch from the site.