Components for China’s third Long March 5 rocket arrived at the country’s southern launch base this week as teams prepare for the first flight of the heavy-lift launcher since a 2017 mission ended in failure.
A prototype space lab module for China’s planned space station re-entered the atmosphere over the South Pacific Ocean Friday to end a nearly three-year mission that included a visit from Chinese astronauts and an in-orbit refueling demonstration.
The launch of three experimental remote sensing satellites last week signaled the resumption of Chinese space launches following multiple rocket failures since late last year, but a senior Chinese space official has confirmed the Chang’e 5 mission to return samples from the moon remains grounded.
China’s second Long March 5 rocket fell short of orbit Sunday after lifting off from a spaceport in the southern Chinese province of Hainan, placing a cloud over the country’s plans to send a robotic sample return mission to the moon later this year.
A series of achievements in China’s space program over the last 12 months have set the stage to start construction of the country’s first space station in 2019, a year later than previously scheduled, officials said Friday.
China plans to launch a robotic mission to return samples from the lunar surface, the first such mission in four decades, in November on top of the country’s new heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket, according to state media reports.
China’s heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket fired into space on a successful inaugural flight Thursday, debuting a brand new launcher that can carry twice the payload of any other Chinese booster and setting a keystone for the country’s ambitions for a space station and interplanetary exploration.