China successfully launched the second rocket of its heavy-duty vehicle generation, a Long March-5 Y2, which will be used in the near future for important missions like a probe that will bring samples of the Moon.
The rocket took off smoothly shortly after 7 pm local time (8 am in Brasília) from the Wenchang space center (on Hainan Island) carrying a Shijian-18 communications satellite.
This new family of vehicles can carry up to 25 tons of cargo in low orbits and 14 tons in geostationary orbits, roughly twice as much as the current Chinese rockets.
The China Space Administration has scheduled eight launches with this rocket family in the coming years, including major missions to the Moon and Mars, as well as the orbiting of the Chinese space station.
It is expected that by November this year the lunar mission Change 5 will be launched, a complex project that will send a probe to the surface of the Moon to take samples and return them to Earth.
The mission will have four modules (ascension, orbit, landing, and return).
This same rocket will be used to launch the first module of the space station, the “Tianhe 1”, about 20 tons in weight, due to be launched in 2019.
And in 2020 it is planned to send with this same rocket a mission to Mars that will include a robotic vehicle that will conduct scientific research.
Chinese space authorities are planning to complete construction of their orbital station in 2022.