China's huge new rocket is headed toward its maiden flight from the country's soon-to-be-complete, brand-new launch center on Hainan Island, at the southern tip of China, far from the nation's mainland.


The combination of the planned rocket, called the Long March 5 — and its derivatives — matched with the Wenchang Launch Center, China's new sprawling spaceport, underscores the country's shifting space gears. It enables China's space station ambitions, while also boosting the nation's plans for interplanetary exploration, as well as accomplishing human treks to the moon.


The new launch facility is extremely important to the future of China's space program, said Gregory Kulacki, senior analyst and China project manager for the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), based in Cambridge, Mass.


"Not only because of the significantly increased capacity of the new series of wider-bodied rockets that will be launched from there, but because of the changes in Chinese space culture the new facility represents," Kulacki told


Kulacki has lived and worked in China for the better part of the last 25 years, facilitating exchanges between academic, governmental and professional.




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