China’s Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket makes its maiden flight

The Long March 5, a beefy new variant of the venerable Long March (Chang-Zheng) series, has completed its maiden flight with flying colors, lifting off from China’s new Wenchang launch complex on Hainan Island.  Long March 5 has a payload capacity of 25,000 kg to low Earth orbit (LEO), 14,000 kg to geosynchronous orbit (GEO), or 8,000 kg to trans-lunar injection (TLI).  This puts it in rare territory — one of the most powerful rockets in operation today.  It’s in the same class as the slightly more powerful Delta IV Heavy, and SpaceX’s upcoming Falcon Heavy (whose theoretical performance is expected to exceed Delta IV Heavy).

China developed this rocket specifically for their human space program; it’s powerful enough to place large modules into Earth orbit.  It also positions them well for future lunar and interplanetary missions.  This is definitely an exciting time in spaceflight!

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