China successfully launched its ‘Long March-7’ carrier rocket on Saturday, which will help in the country’s five-year plan for the space sector and a planned space station which is set to be operational by 2022.
The 53-metre rocket carried a prototype next-generation crew capsule in the first-ever liftoff from the nation’s new launch center, Hainan Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China, so officials could find out how the vessel fared during re-entry.
In a parachute aided landing, the dummy spacecraft landed successfully in the Badain Jaran Desert in Northwest China. It spent 20 hours in orbit.
This rocket is the middle child in a trio of new Chinese rockets which includes a heavy-life launch system called the ‘Long March 5’ and a lighter carrier called the ‘Long March 6’.
“It was designed to collect aerodynamic and heat data for a re-entry capsule, to verify key technologies such as detachable thermal protection structure and lightweight metal materials manufacturing, and to carry out blackout telecommunication tests,” China’s space program said in a statement.
China had launched its first manned spaceflight in 2003. Tiangong-1, the first space lab was sent in 2011. The final step will be to put together and operate a space station by 2022. To achieve that, China has planned four space launches in the next ten months. The Long March-7 mission is the first of these missions.
Yang Baohua, deputy manager of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, on Sunday, said “China is expected to have more than 200 spacecraft in orbit by 2020 and perform about 30 launches per year on average.”
“The probe[Mars mission 2020] is expected to orbit the red planet, land and deploy a rover all in one mission, which is quite difficult to achieve,” said Xu Dazhe, director of China’s National Space Administration, ahead of celebrations on April 24 which marked China’s first satellite launch which was 46 years ago.