China's new large carrier rocket Long March-5B made its maiden flight on Tuesday, sending the trial version of the country's new-generation manned spaceship and a cargo return capsule for test into space, official media reported.
The white large rocket blasted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the coast of southern China's island province of Hainan at 6 p.m. (Beijing Time), state-run Xinhua news agency reported, citing the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).
About 488 seconds later, the experimental manned spacecraft with no crew, together with the test version of the cargo return capsule, separated with the rocket and entered the planned orbit.
The successful flight inaugurates the "third step" of China's manned space program, which is to construct a space station, CMSA said.
Specially developed for China's manned space program, Long March-5B will be mainly used to launch the modules of the space station, it said.
The Long March-5 integrates top space technologies, including non-toxic environmentally friendly fuel and a highly stable control system, state-run Global Times reported.
"After the launch of the Long March-5, China will launch a series of 20-ton rockets, including the Long March-5, 6 and 7," Wang Xiaojun, commander-in-chief of the Long March-7, told the daily.
The rocket will help carry the core module and experiment modules to China's space station.
China initiated the manned space program in 1992. Designed as the country's strongest carrier rocket, the Long March-5 has a payload capacity of 25 tonnes to low Earth orbit, or 14 tonnes to geostationary transfer orbit, an earlier Xinhua report said.