BEIJING: On Tuesday, the country’s space agency said China’s latest carrier rocket, the Long March-8, made its maiden flight, the first phase of a plan to deploy launch vehicles that can be reused.
The Long March-8 series is part of China’s attempts to build reusable rockets, eventually reducing the expense of missions and paving the way for commercial launch services.
The programme has drawn comparisons to the Falcon range of the private US rocket corporation SpaceX, while China said its recycled carrier vehicle will use different technology in 2018. The new medium-lift carrier rocket sent five satellites into scheduled orbit at 12:37pm Beijing time on Tuesday, blasting off from the Wenchang launch site on the southern island of Hainan.
It measures 50.3 metres and has a take-off mass of 356 tonnes, and the National Space Administration of China (CNSA) has reported that it is of “great importance for speeding up launch vehicle upgrades.” The architecture of the rocket was based on technology developed for previous editions of the Long March, Xinhua announced.
Song Zhengyu, the chief designer of the Long March-8, said it is also intended to lay the groundwork for the production of large and heavy missiles, shortening development times and reducing costs.
Experiments of space exploration, remote sensing and communication systems will be performed by the five experimental satellites launched by the latest rocket, said Xinhua.
As a symbol of its technical superiority and research efforts, Beijing has invested extensively in its space programme.
Last week, with rocks and soil from the moon, an unmanned Chinese spacecraft returned to earth, the first lunar samples taken in four decades.