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On-orbit construction mission of China's space station to kick off

(People's Daily Online)    14:50, February 10, 2020

China's Long March-5B carrier rocket arrived at the Wenchng Space Launch Center in southern China's Hainan Province on Feb. 5 and is scheduled to make its maiden flight, launching the prototype of China's new manned spaceship in April.

The first Long March 5B carrier rocket arrives at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province on Wednesday for prelaunch preparations. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Featuring more powerful carrier rockets, more advanced space station technology and higher scientific application efficiency, the on-orbit construction mission of China's space station is about to be launched. China's manned space program in the space station era is making great strides forward.

The Long March-5B carrier rocket is scheduled to carry out two missions. The first is to participate in in a joint rehearsal with the prototype of the Chinese space station's core module at the Wenchang Space Launch Center, and the second is to launch the the prototype of China's new manned spaceship.

The Long March-5B is a modified version of Long March-5 rocket and will be China's first 1.5-stage large carrier rocket, according to Wang Jue, chief commander of the Long March-5 rocket.

Wang also explained that the Long March-5B carrier rocket is China's first first-stage semi-configuration large carrier rocket, which will be mainly used for the launch of large spacecraft in near-earth orbit, undertaking China's manned space station cabin section and other major space launch tasks.

The rocket is 53.7 meters long, with a diameter of 5 meters and a liftoff weight of 849 tons. It uses pollution-free propellant including liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen and kerosene. It has a carrying capacity of more than 22 tons in near-earth orbit, the largest carrying capacity in near-earth orbit of all Chinese rockets.

On July 19, 2019, with the Tiangong-2 space lab beginning to deorbit and re-enter the Earth's atmosphere, all the tasks of the space laboratory phase of China's manned space project were successfully completed, bringing China into the space station era in an all-round way.

The space station phase mission is faced with many challenges in its bid to achieve leapfrog technological development and the continuous improvement of scientific application efficiency.

According to the plan, China's manned space program will continuously carry out more than 10 missions in under three years, complete the construction and operation of near-earth manned space stations, and build a national space laboratory to carry out large-scale space science and technical experiments and civil space applications.

As China is currently being challenged by epidemic prevention and control work, a relevant member of staff at the China Manned Space Engineering Office said that the project will ensure that the joint rehearsal mission and the first flight mission are smoothly organized and implemented according to the planned schedule, and that the space station’s flight mission will be carried out smoothly. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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