China set to launch its new generation carrier rocket from a new launch location in the southern part of the country to transport cargo ships to its planned space stations.
Engineers dispatched the 53-meter, 597-tonne, vertical- standing rocket to the launch pad by rail yesterday from the assembly and testing building.
The 2,700-meter trip alone took three hours, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The rocket will stay on the launch pad until at least Saturday, the beginning of its five-day launch window.
The Long March-7 is a medium-sized rocket that can carry up to 13.5 tonnes to low-Earth orbit.
Earlier reports said it will use a new liquid fuel that is environmental friendly and less expensive.
It is expected it will become the main carrier for China’s space missions.
Its main role in the future will be to transport cargo ships to China’s planned space stations, due to enter service around 2022, as well as satellites and other spacecraft.
The rocket arrived in Wenchang in south China’s Hainan Province by sea in May for final assembly and testing.
The Long March-7 mission will be the first launch from Wenchang, the fourth launch site in China.
Among the other three, Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Dessert is currently the nation’s only manned spacecraft launch center, while Xichang in southwest China’s Sichuan Province is mainly used to launch powerful-thrust rockets and geostationary satellites.
The third, Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in north China’s Shanxi Province, is capable of launching satellites into both medium and low orbits.
Wenchang’s location, being much closer to the equator than the other three, means it could considerably save fuel.
The tropical weather, however, is another source of concern.
Chinese engineers say the Long March-7 rockets can hold up in gales of up to 20.7 meters per second, which is strong enough to make cars veer on the road and impede progress on foot.
The Wenchang site was completed in November, 2014.
It has a launch pad for the Long March-7 and another for the new generation heavy-lift Long March-5, which has a payload capacity of 25 tonnes to low Earth orbit, or 14 tonnes to geostationary transfer orbit.
Earlier reports said the Long March-5 will also make its debut later this year, and, around 2017, will carry the Chang’e-5 lunar probe into space, finishing China’s three-step — orbiting, landing and return — moon exploration programme.