Several of China’s ambitious future space initiatives, including the lunar mission and building of a permanent space station, have been delayed due to the failure of a heavy-lift carrier rocket this year, a senior Chinese space administration official said. The launch of the new heavy-lift rocket, the Long March-5 Y2, carrying the heaviest ever satellite, failed in July. The same rocket type had been expected to take China’s latest lunar probe to the Moon this year and to return with samples. Authorities are still investigating the cause of the unsuccessful launch of the Long March-5 Y2, Tian Yulong, secretary-general of the China National Space Administration said.
Its failure has led to the delay in several major spacecraft missions, state-run Global Times reported. The cause of the failure is expected to be released at the end of the year, Tian said. The rocket carrying Shijian-18 satellite lifted off normally but an anomaly occurred in the rocket, which was launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in South China’s Hainan Province on July 2. The Long March-5 rocket made its maiden flight in November 2016 from Wenchang, successfully sending its payload into pre-set orbit.
With a weight of 7.5 tonnes, Shijian-18 is China’s latest technology experiment satellite and the heaviest satellite China has ever launched into space, official media previously reported. It was aimed at testing China’s new Dongfanghong-5 (DFH- 5) satellite platform and carry out in-orbit experiments including Q/V band satellite communication, satellite-ground laser communication technologies and an advanced Hull electric propulsion system.
Due to the failure, the launch of the lunar probe Chang’e-5, which was scheduled to be sent in the second half of 2017 to retrieve lunar samples, and Chang’e-4, which was due to be launched in 2018 to land on the far side of the moon, will have to rescheduled, Tian said. The construction of China’s space station will also be affected, as the launch of the core module has been moved to 2019, Tian said. China plans to finalise its space station to rival Mir, the Russian space station currently in orbit by 2022