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China’s largest-ever rocket aims for space station

China successfully tested the power system of its Long March 5 carrier rocket on Aug 17. The test marks the completion of the manufacturing phase for the rocket.

A final ground test for maybe the most powerful satellite launcher in the country. The massive rocket is 5 meters in diameter. That’s equivalent to a 20-story building and it has a capacity much bigger than the current level.

“The capacity of the Long March 5 is twice the current capacity. It reached 25 tons to low earth orbit or 14 tons to geostationary transfer orbit,” said Lou Luliang, associate engineer of Long March 5, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

That capacity is a key to serving the newest chapter in China’s manned space station development. China is stepping up efforts on its manned space program and its ambitious plans include a permanent space station, manned lunar missions, and a possible manned mission to Mars. The new booster rocket will help to achieve that dream. Its major tasks include a lunar exploration mission and sending up the core cabin of a manned space station. The rocket will be able to carry heavier spacecraft into outer space than ever before but it will also adopt a more eco-friendly solution.

“The long march 5 is a giant rocket using non-toxic and non-polluting liquefied propellant. Its upcoming tasks include a lunar exploration project and a manned space station,” Lou said.

The largest-ever rocket will also help make space exploration a more economical venture. Its size will allow the new rocket to send both cargo spacecraft and satellites into space at the same time.

“Our objective for the new carrier rocket is to reduce 20 to 30 percent of the cost when sending spacecraft into outer space” Yang Hujun, associate engineer of Long March 5, CASC, said.

After finishing all of its ground tests, the Long March 5 will be shipped to Hainan for its launch scheduled in 2016.