A new Chinese medium-lift carrier rocket has made its first flight as the country works to develop reusable rockets under the Long March 8 series.

The Long March 8 Y-1 rocket blasted off at 12:37pm (0437 GMT) on Tuesday from the southern Chinese island of Hainan to send five test satellites into a preset orbit.

The new rocket’s overall length is about 50.3 meters, while it has a takeoff mass of about 356 tons, and a takeoff thrust of about 480 tons. The maximum payload the rocket can lift is more than 4.5 tons to a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at a 700km altitude.

China’s new medium-lift carrier rocket Long March-8 made its maiden flight, sending five satellites into the planned orbit

The new-generation cryogenic rocket engine adopts ‘green’ propellants of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. It generates water after combustion, and the launch process is environmentally friendly and efficient, according to Chinese media.

The rocket has two stages, and first one is based on that of the Long March 7 rocket. The second stage is based on the third stage of the Long March 3 rocket.

China plans to develop the Long March 8 series in the coming years, and a future version of the carrier rocket can be reusable, which makes it possible to reduce costs. “The launch cycle of the future Long March-8 rocket will be reduced to 10 days,” Duan Baocheng, the deputy commander of a team responsible for the launch of the Long March 8 rocket, said.

China’s space program this year included the launch of its first independent mission to Mars in July, and earlier this month, rocks and soil from the Moon were brought back in the first lunar sample retrieval since 1976.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) plans to complete a multi-module, inhabited space station within two years.

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