China’s new launch vehicle, the Long March-8, made its maiden flight on Tuesday, the country’s space agency said, the first phase of a strategy to deploy reusable launch vehicles.
The Long March 8 series is part of China’s effort to develop reusable missiles that may reduce mission costs and pave the way for commercial launch services.
The program has drawn parallels with the Falcon series from the private US missile company SpaceX, despite the fact that China announced in 2018 that its reusable launch vehicle would use other technologies.
The new medium-lift launch vehicle put five satellites into planned orbit and launched Tuesday at 12:37 p.m. Beijing time (0437 GMT) from the launch site in Wenchang on the southern island of Hainan.
It measures 50.3 meters and has a launch mass of 356 tons. The Chinese Space Agency (CNSA) said it was “of great importance in accelerating the armament of launch vehicles.”
The missile’s design was based on technology developed for previous Long March editions, Xinhua reported Tuesday.
It is also expected to lay the foundation for the development of large and heavy missiles, reduce development times and reduce costs, said Song Zhengyu, chief designer of Long March-8.
The five experimental satellites launched by the new rocket will conduct experiments in space exploration, remote sensing and communication technologies, Xinhua said.
Beijing has invested heavily in its space program as a sign of its technological excellence and scientific endeavors.
An unmanned Chinese spaceship returned to Earth last week with stones and earth from the moon – the first moon samples in four decades.
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