Long March 6: China just successfully launched its newest rocket to orbit

The latest in a series of next-generation rocket launches in China.
Chris Young
The Long March 6A rocket before launch.SAST

China launched its first Long March 6A from a new launch pad at Taiyuan on Tuesday, March 29, sending two satellites into orbit, a press statement reveals.

The Long March 6A took off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 5:50 a.m. ET. The 50-meter-tall rocket features two kerosene-liquid oxygen stages and four solid propellant side boosters.

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Long March 6A: China's new-generation launch vehicle

The Long March 6A rocket launched both of its payload satellites into sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) during its maiden orbital flight. It is the latest of a series of new generation rocket missions carried out by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) since it launched the Long March 11 in 2015.

The Tiankun-2 satellite was developed by the Space Engineering Group under the second academy of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) for space environment detection. As per SpaceNews, the Pujiang-2 satellite was developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) for "scientific experimental research, land and resources census and other tasks."

The new Long March 6A has the capacity to launch four tons to an altitude of 430 miles. According to SAST, the new launch broke new ground by combining liquid and solid propellant stages.

Is China becoming one of the world's leading space powers?

The CNSA has been working hard to bridge the gap between itself, NASA, and Roscosmos to become one of the world's leading space powers. The new launch was China's seventh of 2022, and the country's space agency aims to carry out more than 50 launches throughout the year, including six to complete its modular space station

The Long March 6A maiden launch was also the inaugural mission for a new launch facility built specifically for the Long March 6A in Taiyuan, north China. The new complex was designed to shorten launch preparations to about 14 days by using automated fueling processes.

Earlier this year, China's space agency detected water directly from the Moon's surface for the first time using its Chang'e-5 lunar probe, which itself was launched aboard a Long March 5 rocket. The agency also recently announced it is developing a nuclear fission reactor for the Moon that it claims will be 100 times more powerful than one under development by NASA.

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