iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — China successfully launched its Long March 7 rocket over the weekend in a key test that will pave the way for a planned space station set to become operational by 2022.

Blasting off from the Hainan Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China, the 53-meter rocket carried a mock-up of China’s next generation crew spacecraft so officials could find out how the vessel fared during re-entry. The new vehicle could one day be used to help service the China’s future space station.

Using a parachute landing system, similar to the Russian Soyuz, the dummy spacecraft landed safely in the Badain Jaran Desert in Northwest China after spending 20 hours in orbit, Chinese officials said.

“It was designed to collect aerodynamic and heat data for a re-entry capsule, to verify key technologies such as detachable thermal protection structure and lightweight metal materials manufacturing, and to carry out blackout telecommunication tests,” China’s space program said in a statement.

The 53-meter Long March 7 is the middle child in a trio of new Chinese rockets. The Long March 5 is a heavy-lift launch system while the Long March 6 is designed to carry lighter satellites into orbit.

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Source: World News