The second launch of China's new-generation Long March-5carrier rocket failed Sunday -- dealing a blow to the country's ambitious spaceaspirations.
Carrying anexperimental communications satellite, China's largest rocket lifted off at7:23 p.m. local time (7:23 a.m. ET) toward clear skies from the seasideWenchang space launch center on the southern Chinese island of Hainan.
But 40 minuteslater, the state-run Xinhua news agency flashed a headline declaring the launcha failure -- without providing any details.
Dubbed"Chubby 5" for its huge size -- 5 meters in diameter and 57 meterstall -- the LM-5 rocket is designed to carry up to 25 tons of payload into loworbit, more than doubling the country's previous lift capability.
On Twitter,Xinhua initially posted: "#BREAKING: China's launch of Long March-5 Y2carrier rocket fails."
China hasannounced plans to land a robotic probe on the dark side of the moon later thisyear and to reach Mars around 2020.
All such futuremissions will depend on the LM-5 and space officials told reporters Sunday thatthe latest launch would help perfect the rocket design, including enabling itto send a space station into orbit "in a year or two."
Originallyannounced in 2001, the LM-5 project initially suffered lengthy delays becauseof funding challenges and difficulties in developing new technologies for thefirst Chinese launcher to fully use liquid propellant.
The LM-5 finallymade its debut last November, also at the newly built Wenchang site, and wassuccessfully launched.
Its creatorshave said the LM-5's capabilities are now on par with the US-designed Delta IVrocket, long considered the most powerful in the world.
"The tworockets are at the same level ... though different propellant mix means theDelta is still a bit more efficient," He Wei, the LM-5's general designer,told CNN before the failed launch.
"The Deltahas had years of experience while this is only the second launch for the LM-5-- so we will keep modifying and improving to make our rocket more mature andreliable."