In a crucial step forward for China’s human and robotic spaceflight programs, a Long March 5B booster conducted its maiden flight on Tuesday carrying a prototype of the nation’s next-generation crewed spacecraft.
China’s most powerful rocket lifted off at 1000 GMT (6 p.m. local time) from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. Chinese media have reported the launch from the nation’s southern spaceport was successful.
A Long March 7A booster failed after liftoff from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on Monday, destroying a new technology verification satellite known as Xinjishu Yanzheng-6.
Official Chinese news media acknowledged the failure of the new booster without providing any details concerning the loss. Very little is known about the lost payload.
Long March 7A is an upgraded version of the two-stage Long March 7 booster that was successfully launched two times in 2016 and 2017. Long March 7A employs a third stage powered by two cryogenic YF-75 engines that operate on liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid hydrogen.
Long March 7A’s first two stages are powered by RP-1 and LOX. The rocket also includes four small strap-on boosters attached to the first stage.
The booster is designed to replace older models of Long March launchers that are powered by toxic hypergolic fuels.
China’s ambitious space plans for 2016 include a crewed flight to a new space station and the maiden flights of the Long March 5 and Long March 7 boosters. The nation plans to set a new record for launches in a year with more than 20 flights.