A Long March 5B rocket launched a prototype crewed spacecraft Tuesday, demonstrating the launcher’s capability to carry space station modules to low Earth orbit, Report informs, citing SpaceNews.
Liftoff took place at 6:00 a.m. Eastern from the coastal Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan island. Separation of four side boosters occurred around three minutes into the flight.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) confirmed launch success around 20 minutes after launch. The prototype new-generation spacecraft entered its predetermined orbit 488 seconds after liftoff.
The 53.66-meter-long Long March 5B has a takeoff mass of 849 metric tons. The payload capacity is greater than 22 metric tons to LEO, according to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), the launcher’s designer.
It is a variant of the standard Long March 5, which had an inaugural flight in late 2016. The Long March 5B lacks the second stage of the former. The payload fairing measures 20.5 meters in length with a diameter of 5.2 meters.’
The 8.8-meter-long, 21.6-ton uncrewed prototype spacecraft will use its own propulsion to raise its orbit to an apogee of around 8,000 kilometers (4,970 miles).