The Long March 11 carrier rocket blasts off from a mobile launch platform in the Yellow Sea off the eastern province of Shandong on June 5, 2019. (Photo by Zhu Xingxin/chinadaily.com.cn)
China plans to conduct three seaborne launches using its Long March 11 solid-propellant carrier rocket this year, Jin Xin, the rocket's deputy project manager, said on Friday.
He told a news conference at China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp in Beijing that the launches will take place in the East China Sea from self-propelled platforms.
"We intend to use these missions to further improve our seaborne launch technologies and procedures," he said. "Compared with the first seaborne flight, the coming missions will feature better ships and streamlined tracking and support systems."
China carried out its first seaborne space launch in the Yellow Sea in June, marking the world's first seaborne launch in the past five years. In that mission, a Long March 11 rocket blasted off from a modified submersible craft, which had no propulsion system, off Shandong province and placed seven satellites into orbits nearly 600 kilometers above the Earth.
In addition to the three sea-based tasks, Long March 11 will also undertake two land-based launch missions this year, Jin said.
In another development, Shang Zhi, head of space programs at China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, the country's main space contractor, told the news conference that China's biggest and most powerful carrier rocket－Long March 5－is set to undertake three launch missions this year.
He said they will lift the prototype of China's new-generation manned spacecraft, the country's first Mars probe, and its fifth lunar probe－Chang'e 5.
The third mission of Long March 5, the tallest, strongest and most technologically sophisticated member of China's rocket family, was successfully launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province in late December, more than 900 days after the rocket's failed second flight.
In last month's mission, the 57-meter rocket placed the Shijian-20 experimental communication satellite, the largest and heaviest satellite China has ever made, into a geosynchronous orbit.
With more than 750 metric tons of propellants, each Long March 5 has a liftoff weight of 869 tons and a payload capacity about 2.5 times bigger than any other Chinese rocket. It ranks third among the world's most powerful operational rockets, following the United States' Falcon Heavy and Delta IV Heavy.