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China's New Carrier Rocket to Launch 1st Cargo Spacecraft in 2017
   2016-06-26 07:39:01    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Fei Fei

A Long March-7 carrier rocket lifts off from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, south China's Hainan Province, June 25, 2016. [Photo: Xinhua/Li Gang]

The latest version of China's carrier rocket, the Long March-7, has been successfully launched from the Wenchang launch center in Hainan.

Long March-7 is going to be used mostly to transport cargo to China's future space stations, as well as satellites and other spacecraft.

CRI's Huang Yue has more.

Saturday's launch marks a key step towards China's plan to eventually operate a permanent space station, which is the final step of China's three-phased manned space program.

The Long March-7 rocket has been designed as a cargo spacecraft, and is set to haul most of the components for China's planned space station.

Wu Ping is deputy director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office.

"The Long March-7 project began in January 2011 as a baseline model for China's latest generation of medium-sized carrier rockets. According to the plan, the Long March-7 is expected to launch China's first cargo spacecraft in April 2017. During the construction and operation of the space station, the rocket and the cargo spacecraft will serve as a transport system to replenish supplies and propellant for the station."

The 53-meter, 597-ton, liquid-fueled rocket can carry up to 13.5 tons into low-Earth orbit.
Wang Xiaojun, General Director of the Long March-7 Project, says getting the Long March-7 active is critical in meeting the goal of getting a space station running by 2022.

"The Long March-7 carrier rocket uses kerosene and liquid oxygen as fuel and a low-temperature pressurization system. Powered by six engines, it has a takeoff thrust of 730 tons and can carry 1.5 times as much as the current launch vehicles, which means a significant step forward in our country's rocket development project."

The Wenchang Satellite Launch Center is the fourth of its kind in China, after the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu, the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan and the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi.

Located on China's southernmost point, the Wenchang center allows better access to geostationary orbit for Chinese satellites.

It will be the main launch site for most future space station missions.

Wang Jingzhong, CPC chief of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan, says the Wenchang launch site in Hainan will help relieve a lot of pressure off their facility.

"The center will be used for the launch of geosynchronous satellites, large polar orbiting satellites, low and medium Earth orbit spacecraft, cargo spacecraft, space stations, as well as deep space exploration and other missions. It will also be used during the third phase of China's lunar exploration program and the launch of the Chang'e-5 probe."

Meanwhile, Chinese space officials are suggesting the Long March-5 rocket series is also going to make its debut later this year from the Wenchang facility.

Those rockets are designed for long-range space missions.

It's expected to carry the Chang'e-5 lunar probe into space sometime next year, which will finish China's three-step -- orbiting, landing and return -- moon exploration program.

China will also send its second orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 into space this year, as well as launch the Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft.

As part of China's space lab program, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft will carry two astronauts on board to dock with Tiangong-2.

The two astronauts have already been chosen and are currently under intense training.

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