China's State Broadcaster, CCTV, announced today that the country has successfully launched its largest carrier rocket, which was carrying a new-generation spacecraft.
The Long March-5B rocket was launched on Tuesday at 6 p.m. BJT (10:00 UTC) from the Wenchang Space Launch Site.
The rocket is the fourth variant of the Long March-5 (LM-5) series. With the letter B added to its name, the rocket has been modified to make it capable of sending the test model of China's new manned spaceship.
The main difference between LM-5 and 5B is that the 5B only has one and a half stages compared to two of the LM-5. The "half stage" consists of four 3.35-meter-diameter boosters attached to the core stage.
With the modification applied, the 5B became three meters shorter and about 20 tons lighter than the LM-5. The rocket is nearly 54 meters in height, about the size of the 18-story building.
The lack of additional stages makes it harder to be launched to the correct height. Since it can only be ignited once, there's no way to re-maneuver it after the initial launch. Everything has to be perfect.
The engines of the rocket are also new models. Two YF-77 hydrogen oxygen engines were installed in the core stage, and two YF-100 kerosene and liquid oxygen engines were installed for each of the four boosters.
The LM-5B rocket has the biggest boost power in the Long March series. It can deliver no less than 22 tons of payload at a time to low-earth orbits (LEO). It's main focus will be a 200 to 400 kilometer orbit near Earth.
The rocket carries a test model of China's manned spaceship designed for the future space station. The redesign focused mainly on safety measures and a more comfortable living condition for astronauts. The model is nine meters long and can hold as many as seven astronauts. But in this mission, it carries no one since it's only a test.
More significantly, this new ship is reusable thanks to its modular design. The thermal-protective coating and be reapplied after being burned-out during re-entry.
The ship will stay in space for two days making multiple automatic orbit manoeuvres.
Source - CCTV