TIANJIN -- The Long March-5 rocket, China's largest carrier rocket is scheduled to make its maiden flight later this year and departed northern China's Tianjin Port for the launch base in southern Hainan Friday.
Carried by two special rocket-carrying ships, Yuanwang-21 and Yuanwang-22, the Long March-5 will arrive at Qinglan Port in Wenchang, Hainan Province, after a seven-day journey.
As the country's strongest carrier rocket, the Long March-5 has a payload capacity of 25 tonnes in low Earth orbit and 14 tonnes in geostationary orbit.
The rocket is planned to carry the Chang'e-5 lunar probe in 2017 and will be used to launch China's space station modules and Mars probes.
"The Long March-5 represents a landmark in the country's carrier rocket upgrading and has expanded the diameter of liquid-fuel rockets to 5 meters from 3.35 meters, and will improve space entering capabilities by 2.5 times," said Wu Yanhua, vice head of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence.
Instead of highly toxic propellants, the rocket uses liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen and lox kerosene as fuel, making it more environmentally friendly. Its engines can produce a thrust of more than 1,000 tonnes when taking off.
It has taken researchers 16 years to develop the rocket after nearly 7,000 tests. It was developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
Completed in 2014, the Wenchang launch site is the fourth of its kind in China. Being the closest site to the equator, Wenchang boasts considerable latitudinal advantages. Satellites launched nearer the equator have a longer service life as they have a shorter journey to make it into geostationary orbit and save fuel accordingly.