China boosts space pro­gram with new heavy rocket launch

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

BEI­JING:

China has launched its new Long March-5 heavy rocket, state me­dia said, send­ing its pay­load into or­bit in the coun­try’s lat­est step in ad­vanc­ing its space ex­plo­ration pro­gram. The launch comes af­ter China be­gan its long­est manned space mis­sion last month, send­ing two as­tro­nauts to spend a month aboard a space lab­o­ra­tory that is part of a broader plan to have a per­ma­nent manned space sta­tion in ser­vice around 2022. The rocket, larger than pre­vi­ous ver­sions of China’s LongMarch car­rier rock­ets, blasted off on Thurs­day night from a pad in the south­ern prov­ince of Hainan, state news agency Xin­hua said, a launch in­tended to ver­ify its de­sign and per­for­mance.

“Its suc­cess­ful launch has pro­pelled China to the fore­front of the world in terms of rocket car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity, and marks a mile­stone in China’s tran­si­tion from a ma­jor player in space to a ma­jor power in space,” Xin­hua cited the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party’s Cen­tral Com­mit­tee and pow­er­ful Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion as say­ing in a let­ter. The two-stage rocket’s abil­ity to put 25 tons of pay­load into low-Earth or­bit and 14 tons to geo­sta­tion­ary trans­fer or­bit gives it a car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity 2.5 times larger than pre­vi­ous mod­els, Xin­hua said.

“With the heavy-lift car­rier rocket, China can build a per­ma­nent manned space sta­tion and ex­plore the moon and Mars,” the news agency said. Ad­vanc­ing China’s space pro­gram is a pri­or­ity for Bei­jing, which in­sists it is for peace­ful pur­poses. The US De­fense Depart­ment has high­lighted China’s in­creas­ing space ca­pa­bil­i­ties, say­ing it was pur­su­ing ac­tiv­i­ties aimed at pre­vent­ing other na­tions us­ing space­based as­sets in a cri­sis. De­spite its space pro­gram’s ad­vance­ments for mil­i­tary, com­mer­cial and sci­en­tific pur­poses, China is still play­ing catch-up to es­tab­lished space pow­ers the United States and Rus­sia.

China’s Jade Rab­bit moon rover landed on the moon in late 2013 to great na­tional fan­fare, but soon suf­fered se­vere tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties. The rover and the Chang’e 3 probe that car­ried it there were the first “soft land­ing” on the moon since 1976. Both the United States and the Soviet Union had ac­com­plished the feat ear­lier. US com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing SpaceX and Blue Ori­gin, are now devel­op­ing com­mer­cial space flight ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Both com­pa­nies are devel­op­ing re­us­able rock­ets, and SpaceX has put for­ward the am­bi­tious goal of a hu­man mis­sion to Mars as early as 2024.—Reuters

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