China has taken another step forward as it launches its new generation manned spaceship with a new type of heavy rocket. On Tuesday, at 6 p.m. BJT (10:00UTC), China's Long March-5B rocket was launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Site.
This rocket is the fourth variant of the Long March-5 (LM-5) series, with the letter B added to its name. This new spaceship by China has been modified to make it capable of sending the test model of China's new manned spacecraft.
What's new with Long March-5B?
The main feature that differentiates Long March-5B with its predecessor Long March-5 is that the 5B has only one and a half stages compared to the LM-5 who has two. The "half stage" consists of four 3.35 meter diameter booster rockets attached to the core stage of the spaceship.
The modification applied made the 5B shorter by three meters and about 20 tons lighter than the LM-5. The rockets attached to it are nearly 54 meters in height or about the size of an 18-storey building.
HERE WE GO! ROCKET! #China's Long March-5B successfully launched today! pic.twitter.com/sCkL9uhn9G — Shen Shiwei沈诗伟 (@shen_shiwei) May 5, 2020
Everything has to be perfect when launching the LM-5B because the lack of additional stages makes it harder to be launched to the right height. There is no room for any mistakes as it can only be ignited once, and there is no way to re-maneuver it after the initial launch.
Moreover, the rocket's engine is also new models. There are two YF-77 hydrogen-oxygen engines that were installed in the core stage, and for each of the four boosters, there are two YF-100 kerosene and liquid oxygen engines installed.
Characteristics of a heavy rocket
Compared to normal rockets, heavy rockets have a larger capacity. They can carry more than 20 tons of payloads, including satellites, probes, and spaceships used in exploration. The capacity of heavy rockets is larger than ten average-sized cars.
Up to date, the LM-5B rocket holds the record of having the biggest boost power among the Long march series. It is capable of delivering not less than 22 tons of payload at a time to low-earth orbits (LEO). The main focus of the LM-5B will be a 200 to 40-kilometer orbit near Earth.
What is the payload that the Long March-5B is carrying?
The Long March-5B is carrying China's test model of a manned spaceship designed for the future space station.
It was redesigned to focus mainly on safety measures and a more comfortable living condition for astronauts once the project begins. The model is nine meters long and has a capacity to carry up to seven astronauts. However, since this mission is only a test, it carries no one for the meantime.
The ship will make automatic orbit maneuvers and will be staying space for two days. Thanks to the spaceship's modular design, the new ship is reusable. Its thermal-protective coating can be reapplied after being burned-out during re-entry top the Earth's atmosphere.