In early June China successfully launched its first rocket from a floating launch platform in the Yellow Sea. The rocket carried seven satellites, which it put into orbit around the Earth. The launch method offers a number of advantages, with the Chinese National Space Administration declaring the event a great success. China is hoping to make even greater strides and one day overtake the world’s three great space powers: the USA, Russia and Europe.space
China launched a rocket into space from the sea on Wednesday 5 June. The Long March 11 rocket blasted off at midday (local time) from a floating launch pad in the Yellow Sea, between China and the Korean peninsula, as reported by the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA). “It was China’s first attempt to launch a rocket into space from the sea,” announced the CNSA. “It will help us to better meet a range of satellite launch needs.”
The benefits of sea launches
The rocket was carrying seven satellites, two experimental and five commercial, which were then placed into orbit around the Earth. The use of a floating launch platform offers a number of advantages for missions such as this, including the ability to position the rocket closer to the Equator, where it can make better use of the Earth’s rotation. Sea launches also offer greater thrust and allow rockets to carry more or heavier satellites.
They can also be conducted far away from inhabited areas, which reduces the risk of damage on the ground from falling rocket debris. According to the CNSA, it generally takes little more than a week for a rocket to be transported from a Chinese port to a floating platform at sea.
Reaching for the Moon
China is not the first country to launch rockets from the sea. The company Sea Launch, which is now majority-owned by Russian interests, carried out several dozen of them between 1999 and 2014. China’s successful June launch marks an important step forward for the country, which hopes to compete with fellow space powers the USA, Russia and Europe.
It is with that goal in mind that China has invested billions of euros in its space programme, which is being overseen by the army. It has already put a number of satellites into orbit (Earth observation, telecommunications, geolocation), both for itself and other countries. In early 2019, it became the first country in the world to land a probe on the dark side of the Moon, its aim being to set up an inhabited mission on the Earth’s satellite within the next ten years or so.
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