People are watching the Wenchang Space Launch lift off a Long March-8 rocket.
On Tuesday, the country’s space agency said China’s latest carrier rocket, the Long March-8, made its maiden flight, the first phase of a plan to deploy launch vehicles that can be reused.
The Long March-8 series is part of China’s efforts to build reusable rockets, potentially reducing the cost of missions and paving the way for commercial launch services.
The program has drawn comparisons to the Falcon range of the private US rocket company SpaceX, while China said its reusable carrier vehicle will use different technology in 2018.
The new medium-lift carrier rocket sent five satellites into scheduled orbit, blasting off Tuesday at 12:37 pm Beijing time (0437 GMT) from the Wenchang launch site on southern Hainan Island.
It measures 50.3 meters and has a take-off mass of 356 tons, and the National Space Administration of China (CNSA) has reported that it is of “great significance for accelerating the upgrading of launch vehicles”
The design of the rocket was based on technologies developed for previous editions of the Long March, Xinhua announced Tuesday.
Song Zhengyu, the chief designer of the Long March-8, said it is also intended to lay the groundwork for the production of large and heavy missiles, shortening development times and reducing costs.
Experiments in space science, remote sensing, and communication technology will be performed by the five experimental satellites launched by the latest rocket, said Xinhua.
As a symbol of its technical superiority and research efforts, Beijing has invested heavily in its space programme.
Last week, with rocks and soil from the moon, an unmanned Chinese spacecraft returned to earth—the first lunar samples obtained in four decades.