China launches spacecraft via largest carrier rocket - CCTV
China on Tuesday successfully launched its largest carrier rocket, which was carrying a new-generation spacecraft, state broadcaster CCTV said.
The Long March-5B carrier rocket took off at 1800 local time (1000 GMT) at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan. It was the first mission carried out by the Long March-5B, CCTV reported, citing the China Manned Space Engineering Office.
The Long March-5B - with a length of about 53.7 meters and takeoff mass of about 849 tonnes - was also carrying an inflatable cargo return module.
China said in March it was aiming to launch an experimental spacecraft without a crew as part of a broader spaceflight programme to shuttle astronauts to its future space station and for future manned space exploration. The launch was earlier scheduled for mid- to late April.
China aims to complete a multi-module, inhabited space station around 2022. It became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket in 2003 after the former Soviet Union and the United States.
China has since been racing to catch up with Russia and the United States to become a major space power by 2030.
Last month, Boeing Co said it would send its Starliner astronaut spacecraft on another unmanned mission to the International Space Station, months after its last flight was cut short because of a software bug.
During the December test, a series of software glitches and an issue with the spacecraft's automated timer resulted in Starliner failing to dock at the space station and returning to Earth a week early.
In February, a NASA safety review panel found that Boeing had narrowly missed a "catastrophic failure" in the botched test, and recommended examining the company's software verification process before letting it fly humans to space.
NASA officials held back on ordering a redo because they "didn’t think it would be sufficient" to address all of the concerns raised in the safety review, an agency official told Reuters, adding that NASA would be making additional recommendations.
Boeing and Elon Musk's rocket company, SpaceX, are separately building space taxis to ferry astronauts to the space station under NASA's effort to revive its human spaceflight program.
"Flying another uncrewed flight will allow us to complete all flight test objectives and evaluate the performance of the second Starliner vehicle at no cost to the taxpayer," the company said in a statementReuters