BEIJING (Reuters) – A new Chinese medium-lift rocket, part of a family of launch vehicles meant to support most of China’s launch missions in future, failed on its debut flight, the official news agency Xinhua reported.
The Long March 7A, a variant of the Long March 7, blasted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center, in the southern island province of Hainan, on Monday morning.
But it later suffered a malfunction, the cause of which was being investigated, Xinhua said.
With its specifications and capabilities, the rocket, known as the LM-7A, is well-placed to become China’s main rocket for communication satellite missions, potentially replacing older rockets in the LM-2, LM-3 and LM-4 range.
The LM-7 family is also expected to be central to the construction of China’s space station, due for completion in 2022.
It was not clear how the timetable for near-term orbital launches would be affected by the failed LM-7A mission.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation said in January that it aimed to carry out more than 40 launches in 2020, including space infrastructure missions.
President Xi Jinping has prioritized the space program to strengthen national security and defense. The government has stressed that it is a purely peaceful initiative.
In 2003, China became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States.
Reporting By liangping Gao and Ryan Woo