China conducted its first ever rocket launch from a ship at sea on Wednesday – their 9th rocket launch so far this year.
The Long March 11 rocket took off from a civilian cargo ship in the Yellow Sea, marking a big step in their space program, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported Wednesday.
“Launching a rocket from the sea has the advantages of high flexibility, good adaptability for specific tasks, and excellent launch economy,” said a statement from the China National Space Administration, cited by SCMP.
“It can flexibly select the launch point and touchdown area to meet the needs of various payloads for different orbits, and provide better aerospace commercial launch services for countries along the belt and road,” the statement added.
The rocket carried seven satellites – five commercial satellites and two “technical experiment” satellites that will improve China’s ability to predict and monitor extreme weather patterns. They entered their intended orbit just six minutes later.
China’s Long March 11 rocket is a relatively small design comparable to a ballistic missile. It can carry approximately 700 kilograms (1,543 pounds) and is designed for quick, mobile deployment.
It’s also China’s only solid fuel rocket among its latest generation of carrier rockets.
The successful Long March 11 launch marks a turning point in China’s space development after the two failed launches of the Long March 4C rocket in May and March, Business Insider reported last month.
Just two weeks ago on May 22, China attempted the 4C’s launch from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern Shanxi province.
Within minutes after takeoff, its smoke trail in the sky showed the rocket making sharp turns and zigzags, as evident in photos posted to social media.
— LaunchStuff (@LaunchStuff) May 23, 2019
China later acknowledged the failure through its state media agency, Xinnhua, who said the rocket completed the first and second stages successfully, but failed during the third stage.
Torn and frayed pieces of the rocket were also observed falling back to Earth, and later landed in remote towns.
China has launched the Long March 4C rockets some two dozen times, carrying vital payloads to China’s space program, including satellites and probes.
The last known failure of the Long March 4C rocket was in August 2016, and the last government launch of a Chinese rocket included the Long March 5 in July 2017, Space News reported last month.