China ushered into the "third step" of its space programme, which is to construct a space station, by successfully launching the new large carrier rocket Long March-5B and sending the trial version of its new-generation manned spaceship and a cargo return capsule into the space for test, as reported by the official State-run news agency, Xinhuanet on Tuesday.
China, on Tuesday, launched a new rocket, that is part of its ambitious plan to operate a permanent space station and eventually send astronauts to the Moon.
With the largest payload capacity of China's current carrier rockets, the Long March-5B enables the launch of large spacecraft.
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One of China's main space exploration ambitions has been to build its own space station as an alternative to the International Space Station, following the country's exclusion from the existing space station by the U.S. over security concerns.
The new manned spacecraft is created to adapt to multiple tasks including low-Earth orbit missions and deep-space explorations. The capsule is composed of a service module and a return capsule and was created to be reused ten times.
This capsule is said to carry six to seven astronauts at a time and travel to space to fully complete the mission of the government to create a new space station designed for the country.
Some space science experiments, including space 3D printing, will be conducted on the experimental spacecraft. Besides, a test version of a cargo return capsule also separated from the rocket.
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The program has developed rapidly, especially since its first crewed mission in 2003, and has sought cooperation with space agencies in Europe and elsewhere.
At the launch center, the rocket will make ground drills with the prototype of the Chinese space station's core module to verify the launch sequence for the space station. However, this mission didn't include astronauts as it was only a test launch.
"China has caught up with the USA in some space areas like earth observation and navigation", Chen said.
But Beijing has made huge strides in its effort to catch up to the U.S. space programme, sending astronauts into space, satellites into orbit and a rover on the far side of the Moon. "The F manned launch vehicle, the Long March 7 launch vehicle, and the Long March 5 B launch vehicle have significantly increased launch frequency and mission complexity".
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