China has successfully performed the inaugural flight of its new Long March 5 (LM-5) heavy-lift launcher, which lifted off from the Wenchang centre in southern China at 12 :43 UTC on 3rd November.
Of comparable size to Ariane 5, Delta IV Heavy or the Proton M, LM-5 gives China significantly greater launch capacity than the Long March 7 inaugurated in June. While LM-7 can carry a payload of 13.5t into low earth orbit (LEO), or 7t into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO), LM-5 can place 25t into LEO and 14t into GTO.
Though not qualified for manned spaceflight missions, LM-5 will play a key role in the assembly of China’s future modular space station between 2018 and 2020, and in future missions to Mars. It will also be used in 2017 for the Chang’e 5 mission to return samples from the Moon.
For the inaugural flight, the launcher carried the Shijian-17 experimental satellite developed by the CNSA space agency, fitted with an electric propulsion system.