China plans to conduct a “record “ number of 30 space launch missions this year as part of its efforts to expand its ambitious space programme, authorities said on Wednesday.
The record-breaking space launches will be launched by Long March-5 and Long March-7 rockets, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation said.
Long March-5 is China’s largest carrier rocket.
The successful test launch of the vehicle in November in South China’s Hainan Province will pave the way for space station construction, state-run China News Service reported.
China recently released an official white paper on its space missions stating that it will launch a lunar probe in 2018 to achieve world’s first soft landing on the far side of the moon and a mission to Mars in the same year.
Wang Yu, general director of the Long March-5 programme, said 2017 is a critical year for China’s new generation of carrier rockets and the Long March-5 rockets will carry Chang’e-5 probe to the space.
The probe will land on the moon, collect samples and return to Earth, it said.
On the other hand, Long March-7, the more powerful version of Long March-2, will send China’s first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 into the space in the first half of 2017, according to Wang Zhaoyao, director of China Manned Space Engineering Office.
Tianzhou-1 is expected to dock with Tiangong-2 space lab and conduct experiments on propellant supplement.
China conducted 22 launch missions in 2016 and 19 in 2015.
The country successfully tested its Long March-7 rocket in June last year and has gradually shifted to new generation rockets that reduce the use of toxic rocket fuels.
In the next five years, China plans to provide space and aviation-related services to countries involved in the One Belt and One Road initiative, such as satellite communications, navigation and weather forecasting analysis.