China’s Long March-5B carrier rocket is scheduled to make its maiden flight in the first half of 2020, according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO).
As a new generation of carrier rocket, the Long March-5B has the largest carrying capacity to low-Earth orbit. It will carry the core capsule and experiment capsules of China’s space station.
China’s Tiangong Space Station is expected to be completed in 2022. It is mainly comprised of the Core Capsule, Experiment Capsule I and Experiment Capsule II, with the aim of building a reliable operating space station and providing long-term support for the onboard astronauts.
The space station project will be implemented in three phases: key technology validation, construction and operation. Six flight missions, including the maiden flight of the Long March-5B rocket and launch of the test core capsule, have been scheduled in the first phase, and launches of experiment capsules in the second phase.
Each capsule will weigh about 20 tonnes. After a series of tests, the core capsule will be transferred into the flight model phase. The two experiment capsules are ready for final assembly.
The preliminary selection for candidates of astronauts has finished, and the development of space application system has carried on as planned, the paper cited Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s manned space program.
According to the study, the Long March-5B rocket is in production and undergoing tests for engine reliability.