China has secured a propellant to conduct its three major space projects – a space station, Mars probe, and moon probe to return to Earth.
The Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that Long March-5 Y3, a carrier rocket, was successfully launched from the Wenchang space center in Hainan province on Friday night and mounted on the rocket was put into orbit in 30 minutes. Earlier in November 2016 and July 2017, China made attempts to launch Long March-5, but failed due to engine issues.
The successful launch of the Long March-5 is garnering attention as the carrier rocket is expected to play a key role in China’s space ambitions to catch up with the U.S. China is also planning to launch Tianhe, a core module of the Tiangong space station to be placed in Low Earth orbit and aimed to start operation in 2022, for the first time in 2020. In addition, the Chang'e-5 probe will be launched to collect the soil samples of the moon and return to Earth. Huoxing-1, the first unmanned Mars probe, is also planned to be launched in July 2020 when the distance between Earth and Mars becomes the shortest.
The Long March-5, nicknamed the "Fat Five" for its large size, is the biggest carrier rocket in China. It is 57-meter tall, which is about a 20-story building, and five meters in diameter, weighing 870 tons. The rocket uses liquid fuel.
As the U.S. plans to launch its Mars probe “Mars 2020” in July next year as well, the competition between the U.S. and China for Mars missions is expected to be heated up.