June 15 (UPI) — China launched its first X-ray telescope for black hole observation from space using a Long March-4B launch vehicle from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
The Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope, or HXMT, was initially scheduled for launch in 2010, according to NASASpaceFlight.com
The launch on Thursday morning from a remote area in Inner Mongolia marks an important step in China’s bid to advance a space program that could compete with the United States or Russia, the Financial Times reported.
The Chinese government plans to use the telescope to observe high-energy black holes, pulsars and gamma-ray bursts.
The aim is to better understand these energy sources, according to the FT.
The launch was originally scheduled for 2010, but the work on the telescope began earlier, in 2000, with China’s science ministry, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University in Beijing taking part in the development.
The HXMT is also composed of three “main payloads,” high-energy, medium-energy, and low-energy X-ray telescopes that will orbit the Earth, according to NASASpaceFlight.com
China’s Long March-4B launch vehicle is also a long awaited engineering development, and feasibility studies for the projectile, also known as the Chang Zheng-4, began in 1982.
The rocket is capable of launching a satellite that weighs up to 3 tons, according to the report.