It is a former suborbital test center. It is China's fourth and southernmost space vehicle launch facility (spaceport). It has been specially selected for its low latitude, which is only 19° north of the equator, which will allow for an increase in payload necessary for launching China's future space station. It is capable of launching the Long March 5, currently the most powerful Chinese rocket.
Unlike the space centers on the mainland whose rail tracks are too narrow to transport the new five meter core boosters, Wenchang uses its sea port for deliveries. Initial launches of the CZ-5 booster from Wenchang were, as of early 2008, expected in 2014, one year after the intended commissioning of the Wenchang Launch Site. The first launch of CZ-5 was later shifted to 2016 , and took place on 3 November 2016. The CZ-5B (max payload to LEO) variant was expected to fly around 2018 but the maiden flight took place 5 May 2020. A CZ-5 carrier rocket was already shipped from North China's Tianjin port at 20 September 2015 for a rehearsal (some drills carried out on the launch pad that involves both the carrier rocket and a probe) of a scheduled Chang'e-5 lunar mission, which was planned for around 2019. Chang'e 5 is currently scheduled to launch December 2020.
The construction of the site was completed by October 2014. The first launch took place successfully at 20:00, 25 June 2016.
Planning and construction
Political considerations had postponed the construction of a large space center in Hainan many times as it was considered too vulnerable to foreign attack. Following the end of the Cold War and the easing of global tensions, new projects for its development were submitted.
A Long March 5 launched 2 July 2017 failed to complete its mission to put a seven-tonne Shijian-18 communications satellite into orbit approximately 1 hour after lift off at 11:23 UTC. Adding propellant started on 1 June 2017. The rocket had arrived at the base in early May where it was assembled and tested. The launch was broadcast live on television.
The third flight of Long March 5 occurred on 27 December 2019 from Wenchang LC-1.
The maiden flight of Long March 5B variant took place on 5 May 2020 from Wenchang LC-1.
On 23 July 2020, the fourth flight of Long March 5 put China's first indigenous Mars orbiter/rover Tianwen-1 directly into TMI from Wenchang.
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