China’s National Space Administration, for the very first time, has successfully launched one of its Long March 11 rockets from a mobile platform on board a ship in the Yellow Sea, off the coast of Shandong province. It carried on board a cargo of seven total rockets, including five designed for commercial use and two for experimental purpose for space-based research. It marked the 306th launch of a rocket in the Long March series, but the first one at sea.
China is the third country after U.S. and Russia to master the sea launch technology establishing itself as a global power. It will serve as a competitive advantage when it comes to launch cots and potential incidental damage from misfires. China is the first country to have launched at sea from a platform and using launch technology that they fully own and operate unlike, US and Russia whose previous Sea Launch platform was build in partnership with number of nations including Norway and the Ukraine, and ceased operating in 2014.
Today’s launch was also a joint effort with private industry, since the ship it was on was actually a civilian cargo vessel, and the launch rocket itself was sponsored by, and named after a relatively new Chinese luxury car brand called WEY.
Sea launches are advantageous as they provide the ability to position closer to the equator, requiring less fuel to reach orbit and therefore, reducing the overall launching cost. It also lessens the possibility of on-ground damages from falling rocket debris.
The official Xinhua News Agency cited experts saying that the launch will meet the rising demand for launches of low inclination satellites.
China had conducted its first crewed mission in 2003, and since then, the growth of China’s space program has been rapid. It is becoming the third country after Russia and US to put humans into space using an owned technology.
China’s space program suffered a rare setback last year with the failed launch of a Long March 5 rocket. However, it has put two space stations and plans for launching a Mars rover in the mid-2020s.