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China’s powerful new rocket makes a successful debut launch

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Justin Cornell
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The Long March 7 rocket lifted off at 8:01am ET on Saturday morning.

China's developing space program took another major step forward on Saturday with the launch of its Long March 7 rocket, a new class of booster capable of lifting up to 13.5 metric tons to low-Earth orbit LEO .

The launch highlighted several key advances for the rapidly modernizing Chinese rocket program.

The new 53-meter rocket is the medium-class version of a new launch family that will also include the heavy lift Long March 5 vehicle with similar capabilities to the Delta IV Heavy rocket , and Long March 6 rocket that will launch small satellites into space.

Developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the new fleet of vehicles will allow China to build and service a new space station, which may debut as early as 2022.

The engine has a thrust of about 270,000 pounds at sea level, which is less than one of the space shuttle's main engines 418,000 lbf but more than one of the Merlin 1D engines 190,000 lbf used by SpaceX in its Falcon 9 rocket.

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