The next flight of China’s heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket will debut a new configuration designed to launch modules for a Chinese space station. But a demonstration launch of the Long March 5B booster scheduled as soon as April will instead carry a prototype of China’s next-generation deep space crew capsule into orbit on an unpiloted test flight.
A Chinese Long March 3B rocket launched a satellite Tuesday toward a position in geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles above Earth. Chinese state media claimed the mysterious spacecraft has a communication and television broadcast mission, but analysts believe it could enter service for the Chinese military.
The third launch of China’s heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket successfully delivered its satellite payload to orbit Friday, validating engine design changes after a failure on the Long March 5’s second flight, and clearing the way for the launch of a Chinese Mars rover and lunar sample return mission in 2020.