US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — The cargo capsule, which was part of today’s key test in China’s space program, experienced “problems” during its return flight to Earth, the space agency said.
The cargo capsule was launched on Tuesday aboard a new type of launch vehicle along with a spacecraft prototype. The latter is expected to return to Earth this Friday.
This launch is a serious test of China’s ambitions to operate a permanent space station and send astronauts to the moon.
But today there were problems during the return of the cargo capsule, said a statement by the Chinese space agency.
“Experts are currently analyzing this data,” they said, without going into details.
The cargo capsule was not intended for transporting astronauts, but only for equipment. The device, developed by the Chinese Corporation of Aerospace Science and Industry, is an experimental prototype.
The capsule was equipped with an “inflatable” heat shield. This type of design, also being tested by US and European space agencies, aims to ultimately replace the heavier classic metal heat shields and thereby reduce the amount of excess cargo that can be delivered into space.
The launch on Tuesday was also the first flight of the Long March 5B, considered the most powerful missile made in China to date. State media said the launch was “successful.”
This happens after two previous accidents, when Long March 7A did not work in March, and Long March 3B did not take off in early April.
In recent years, Beijing has been investing heavily in its space program as it plays catch-up with the United States, the only country to send a man to the moon.
The assembly of the Chinese space station Tiangong, whose name means the Heavenly Palace, should begin this year and end in 2022.
China also became the first country to land on the opposite side of the moon in January 2019, deploying a lunar rover that traveled about 450 meters.
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