China says launch of key new space rocket 'successful'

The Long March 5-B carrier rocket took off at 1800 local time (1000 GMT) at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan.

China launched a newly designed spacecraft on Tuesday as part of its program to build an orbiting space station, furthering its aspirations to rival the U.S., Russian Federation and private companies in outer space exploration.

China's new large carrier rocket Long March-5B made its maiden flight on Tuesday, sending the trial version of China's new-generation manned spaceship and a cargo return capsule for test into space.

The Long March-5B has the largest fairing of China's carrier rockets, specially created to carry the space station modules. "Sent into orbit to complete the construction of the space station cabin", explains Zhou Jianping, Chief Designer of China's Manned Aerospace Engineering.

The Long March-5B - with a length of about 53.7 metres and takeoff mass of about 849 tonnes - was also carrying an inflatable cargo return module.

"But there are still large gaps between China and United States in deep space exploration and human space flight", he said, adding the United States was the "leading space power today, yesterday and in the near future".

China initiated the manned space programme in 1992.

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According to space, the Tuesday flight still has no crew inside it since its only a test launch.

All personnel participating in the mission had overcome tremendous difficulties caused by the novel coronavirus epidemic, and the challenges and pressure brought by the recent failures of the Long March-7A and Long March-3B rockets.

China plans to send an astronaut to the Moon in about a decade and then build a base there.

The second step was developing advanced space flight techniques and technologies including extra-vehicular activity and orbital docking.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted that billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's space company, SpaceX, will send two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from the U.S. state of Florida - marking the company's first mission carrying humans.

With the largest payload capacity of China's current carrier rockets, the Long March-5B enables the launch of large spacecraft.

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