The third Long March 5 carrier rocket was transported to Wenchang, Hainan province, on Sunday and will undergo final tests before its launch, the China National Space Administration said.
It said in a brief statement on Sunday that the rocket, carried by the China Satellite Maritime Tracking and Control Department vessels Yuanwang 21 and Yuanwang 22, left the northern coastal city of Tianjin, where it was built, on Tuesday. It will now be transported by trucks to the Wenchang Space Launch Center for mission preparations, the statement said.
The administration did not say when the third Long March 5 mission will take place, only noting that it will occur “at a proper time”.
Yang Baohua, deputy general manager of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, said earlier this year that the third Long March 5 mission will be tasked with placing the 8-metric-ton SJ-20 technological demonstration satellite into a geosynchronous orbit. The satellite is the first based on China’s new-generation DFH 5 satellite platform and will be used to verify several key satellite technologies.
The strongest and most technologically sophisticated rocket ever built by China, the Long March 5 has a liftoff weight of 869 tons, and a maximum carrying capacity of 25 tons to a low-Earth orbit, or 14 tons to a geosynchronous transfer orbit. Its payload capacity is about 2.5 times bigger than any other Chinese rocket.
The gigantic rocket’s first flight was carried out in November 2016 from the Wenchang center. The second mission was launched in July 2017 at the same site but failed due to structural abnormalities inside the turbine exhaust device of one of the first stage’s liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen engines.
Sources said the rocket’s future missions include sending the Chang’e 5 probe to the moon to fulfill China’s fifth－and most sophisticated－lunar expedition and placing parts of the country’s manned space station into space.
Yuanwang 21 and Yuanwang 22 were designed and built by China State Shipbuilding Corp. Each vessel is 130 meters long, has a full-load displacement of nearly 9,000 tons and has special equipment for rocket transportation, according to the company.