China`s new large carrier rocket makes maiden flight

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The rocket was launched from Hainan Island and did not have any astronauts on board, according to Chinese state media.

This is a significant mission for China's space program, and an interesting comparison point for the ongoing Commercial Crew missions by NASA, which is approaching a major milestone with the first demonstration launch of SpaceX's Commercial Crew spacecraft with astronauts on board on May 27.

China's new large carrier rocket Long March-5B blasts off from Wenchang Space Launch Center in south China's Hainan Province, May 5, 2020.

Before the launch, joint drills of the Long March-5B rocket and the prototype core capsule of the space station had been conducted at the Wenchang Space Launch Center.

As per the report, Wang Xiaojun, head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), said that the Long March-5B carrier rocket will help expand China's aerospace activities.

About 488 seconds later, the experimental manned spacecraft with no crew, together with the test version of the cargo return capsule, separated with the rocket and entered the planned orbit.

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On Tuesday, May 5, China reportedly launches its largest carrier rocket that has a size of more than an Olympic swimming pool.

China plans to inaugurate its large modular space station this year which will be placed in low orbit.

The spaceship and capsule are slated to return to a landing site by Friday after completing their test flights, Ji Qiming of the China Manned Space Agency told a press conference. However, this mission didn't include astronauts as it was only a test launch. Designed as the country's strongest carrier rocket, the Long March-5 has a payload capacity of 25 tonnes to low Earth orbit, or 14 tonnes to geostationary transfer orbit, an earlier Xinhua report said.

China aims to complete a multi-module, inhabited space station around 2022.

China has since been racing to catch up with Russian Federation and the United States to become a major space power by 2030.

But Beijing has made huge strides in its effort catch up to the U.S. space program, sending astronauts into space, satellites into orbit, and a rover on the far side of the Moon.

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