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On February 11 China did a static fire test of the core engine for its Long March 5 rocket, that country’s largest rocket that has been grounded since a launch failure in July 2017.
The YF-77 is China’s most powerful rocket engine, burning liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidiser to provide 510 kN (110,000 lbf) of thrust at sea level. A pair of these engines power the core stage of the Long March 5.
The Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket successfully debuted in late 2016 but failed to reach orbit with its second flight, in July. Following an investigation into the launch failure, it has been announced that the next launch is being planned for the second half of 2018 from the specially built Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the island province of Hainan, at 19 degrees North. No causes of the failure, which some observers pin to an underperformance of the first stage brought on by an engine issue, have been publicly revealed, and thus no indication as to whether the issue was related to design or a manufacturing problem.
The Chinese continue to be very tight-lipped about the situation with the Long March 5. This static fire test suggests however that the issue was with the core engine.