CHINA pointed to its successful launch of the new generation rocket Long March 7 on Saturday to indicate that the country is on schedule to put its second space station into orbit this year.
China’s national space agency said the lift-off of the rocket, a historic milestone in the nation’s increasingly ambitious space program, brought the country closer to establishing a permanent presence in space.
Today, China retrieved an experimental probe that was launched aboard the rocket and contained data about the rocket’s performance.
A second space station, christened the Tiangong 2, is due to be slung into space in September.
Since launching its first manned mission in 2003, China has sent up an experimental space station, the Tiangong 1, staged a spacewalk and sent a rover to the moon. Further plans call for a mission to Mars.
Ars Technica reported that the Long March 7 rocket functions on kerosene and liquid oxygen fuels, as opposed to more environmentally hazardous hypergolic fuels that were standard in previous launchers based on 1970s technology. The rocket will likely to carry cargo resupply vehicles to China’s space station.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press