China successfully launched a rocket from a ship at sea for the first time on Wednesday, in the country’s latest venture as part of its ambitious space programme, state media reported.
According to Chinese state media, its Long March 11 rocket blasted off from a platform on a large semi-submersible barge in the Yellow Sea at around 12pm local time (04:00 GMT).
The small rocket, designed to be deployed quickly and from mobile launch sites such as a ship, carried seven satellites, including one that measures sea-surface winds to forecast typhoons.
Furthermore, the media reported that the rocket also carried two communications satellites courtesy of China 125, a Beijing-based technology company that plans to launch hundreds of satellites to provide global data networking services.
About six minutes after its launch into space, five commercial satellites and a pair of technical experiment probes – called Bufeng, or Wind Catchers – reached their designated orbits.
The Long March-11 carrier rocket, carrying two experimental technology satellites and five commercial satellites, successfully launched from the Yellow Sea at 12:06 pm on Wed local time, marking the first sea-based space launch in China.
The China National Space Administration said in a statement: “Launching a rocket from the sea has the advantages of high flexibility, good adaptability for specific tasks and excellent launch economy.”
It also said the Long March 11 rocket could assist in the development of ‘Belt and Road’, the country’s plan to grow its global trade network.
The statement read: It can flexibly select the launch point and touchdown area to meet the needs of various payloads for different orbits and provide better aerospace commercial launch services for countries along the belt and road.
The sea-based launch is the latest move in China’s space programme as it races to catch up with the United States and become a major space power by 2030, although the country insists that its space ambitions are “purely peaceful”.
However, while China has insisted its ambitions are peaceful, the US Defense Department has accused it of pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets during a crisis.
The news comes as Beijing announced plans to begin construction of its very own manned space station in 2020.
The race is on for countries to become the leading space power in the world. At the end of May 2019, the US and Japan agreed to cooperate on the next mission to the Moon, as Nasa now intends to accelerate humans’ return to the lunar surface by 2024.
Also regarding recent launches, in April 2019, Elon Musk’s company SpaceX successfully launched the first operational mission of its Falcon Heavy, achieving a triple-rocket landing more than a year after its demo mission catapulted a cherry-red Tesla and a dummy, nicknamed Starman, into space.