The nation now has a cheaper, safer way to reach space.
On Wednesday, the nation launched a Long March 11 rocket from a large barge in the Yellow Sea, sending up five commercial satellites and two probes designed to help China monitor and forecast extreme weather events, such as typhoons.
That makes China just the third nation to successfully complete an offshore rocket launch, placing in on a very short list alongside the United States and Russia — another sign that China’s plans to become a world leader in space exploration are coming to fruition.
While China isn’t the first nation to complete an offshore rocket launch, it is the first to do so from a launch platform it developed alone — the platform the U.S. and Russia used was created as a collaboration between four nations.
As for why China, or any nation, would want to go to the trouble of launching a rocket from a ship rather than land, sea launches offer a number of benefits over their traditional counterparts.
For one, because they’re farther away, there’s less of a risk of sea launches hurting civilians. They also give a space agency more flexibility for choosing a launch site, and sea launches can cut fuel costs as an agency can choose a site nearer the equator, which provides the rocket with an extra boost.
READ MORE: China launches rocket from ship at sea for first time [Reuters]
More on China’s space program: China’s Space Exploration Roadmap Reveals Plans for a Nuclear-Powered Shuttle