China has been accelerating its space agenda with major focus on its own space station as well as a powerful rocket in its arsenal that would enable it to build the station, but it turns out that the failure of latest launch of China’s Long March 5 rocket may delay the country’s space station plans.
China hasn’t revealed what went wrong during the latest launch of the Long March 5 and according to experts, the still unexplained mishap shows that for all its triumphs, China’s space program is not immune to the tremendous difficulties and risks involved in working with such cutting-edge technology.
Authorities say the Long March 5 Y2 that took off Sunday in the second launch of a Long March 5 rocket, suffered an abnormality during the flight after what appeared to be a successful liftoff from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan. The incident is under investigation and the authorities have yet to comment on possible causes, or any knock-on effects on the program as a whole.
Nicknamed “Chubby 5” for its massive, 5-meter (16-foot) girth, the Long March-5 is China’s largest and most brawny launch vehicle, capable of carrying 25 tons of payload into low-earth orbit and 14 tons to the more distant geostationary transfer orbit in which a satellite orbits constantly above a fixed position on the earth’s surface
That’s more than double that of the Long March 7, the backbone of the Chinese launching fleet, making it the linchpin for launch duties requiring such massive heft such as interplanetary travel.
One of the first missions to be pulled off using the Long March 5 is the mission slated for November by the Chang’e 5 probe to land a rover on the moon before returning to Earth with samples. The Long March 5 may have suffered other setbacks, but the latest failure will most likely delay the lunar mission.
Other upcoming Chinese missions include the launch next year of the 20-ton core module for China’s orbiting Tiangong 2 space station, along with specialized components for the 60-ton station that is due to come on-line in 2022 and other massive payloads in future. The Long March 5 was also due to be the launch vehicle for a Mars rover planned for the mid 2020s.