Credit: XinhuaVideo/New China TV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China has successfully launched the third Long March-5 rocket, a class of booster tasked for the Chang’e-5 Moon mission in 2020 to bring lunar samples back to Earth. The rocket is scheduled to loft China’s first Mars probe, also in 2020.

This third flight of the booster blasted off from the coastal launch center at 8:45 p.m. (Beijing time), carrying the Shijian-20 technological experiment satellite weighing over eight tons.

The Long March-5 is the largest launch vehicle in China’s space fleet, carrying 25 tons of payload into low-Earth orbit and is able to hold 14 tons for geostationary transfer orbit.

Mixed track record

The booster has had mixed success in previous launches.

Its first launch in 2016 was successful, but a second flight in 2017 failed to perform as anticipated. Cause of the failure was later tagged to a malfunctioning engine turbo pump.

According to a report by Xinhua, a successful launch means that the rocket will be tasked with lofting Moon and Mars missions next year. Further modifications to the rocket will be used to construct China’s space station.

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