China’s next-generation carrier rocket blasted off from the country’s new Wenchang space port Saturday, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The primary purpose for this launch was to deliver a prototype shuttle into space, Xinhua reported. Several small satellites were also sent into orbit from the shuttle.
Standing 174 feet (53.1 meters) tall, the Long March-7 can carry up to 13.5 tons into low Earth orbit and is expected to become the main carrier for future space launches, according to Xinhua.
Completed in November 2014, this is the newest member of the Long March rocket family developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT).
China says this is the country’s first digitally designed rocket, manufactured with 3-D technologies. Long March-7 is a medium-lift orbital vehicle, powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen. The developers say it will be “more environmentally friendly,” producing less pollution than previous models.
This is the first rocket launch from the Wenchang satellite launch center. That center is China’s fourth launch site, but the only one near the sea, Xinhua reports. The complex is located in the northeast corner of the Hainan Island on the southern coast of China.