China has completed the second ground test on the power system of its next-generation carrier rocket - the Long March-5. The test in Beijing was conducted in preparation for the rocket’s first flight in 2016.
The most powerful rocket yet takes the country a step closer to its space dream.
“The system’s current status is basically the same as it would be on a future flight. It marks a key technological breakthrough and it’s ready for the scheduled flight test,” Lou Luliang, deputy chief designer of Long March-5 Rocket, said.
The Long March-5 Rocket is capable of sending payloads of 25 tons into low Earth orbits, three times more than previous rockets. That means it could send 16 cars into space at one time.
“By sending modules separately, we will finally build a space station of over 60 tons,” Yang Hujun, deputy chief designer of Long March-5 Rocket, said.
The Long March-5 rocket could also send heavier probes to the moon.
“The third stage of China’s lunar exploration program, which is to return lunar samples back to the Earth, will also rely on the Long March-5 Rocket,” Yang said.
Behind the significant increase in payload is a non-toxic, non-polluting liquid propellant. It’s a combination of liquid oxygen and hydrogen, offering the highest specific impulse of rockets than any known propellant.
Currently only the US and Europe have similar power systems.
“This is the last test of Long March-5’s power system before its maiden flight. It means China’s utilization of hydrogen has entered the application process,” Li Hong, dean of China Academy Of Launch Vehicle Technology, said.
The rocket’s first flight is scheduled for April next year. And there’s no stopping there, as scientists continue to design carrier rockets with ever higher payload capacities.