China Aces Its 1st Rocket Launch at Sea, Puts 7 Satellites in Orbit (Video)

China launched a rocket from a pad at sea for the first time today (June 5), making it the third nation to successfully demonstrate the ability to launch satellites into orbit from a floating platform (following the U.S. and Russia).

The Long March 11 rocket lifted off from a floating launch pad in the Yellow Sea just off the coast of Shandong at 12:06 a.m. EDT, or 12:06 p.m. local time (0406 GMT). It was the seventh launch of this type of Long March rocket, which first flew in 2015, and it was China's first attempt at an offshore launch into Earth orbit. 

Related: China National Space Administration: Facts & Information (opens in new tab)

On board were two technology-experiment satellites and five smaller commercial satellites, according to the Chinese news site XinhuaNet.com (opens in new tab). The two larger satellites, named Bufeng-1A and Bufeng-1B and built by the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing, will monitor ocean winds to help improve weather forecasts.  

Other payloads included an Earth-imaging cubesat, an experimental communications satellite called Tianqi-3, China's first two Ka-band communications satellites, and a new satellite for China's Jilin-1 remote-sensing satellite constellation, according to NASAspaceflight.com (opens in new tab)

Videos of the launch, provided by the Chinese news agency CCTV, show the 68-foot (21 meters) Long March 11 rocket hurtling into the sky from the unnamed ship, which measures about 360 by 260 feet (110 by 80 meters). 

Launching rockets at sea can offer several advantages over land-based rocket launches. For example, the rocket can lift off closer to the equator, where Earth's spin naturally provides a speed boost and decreases the amount of fuel needed to reach orbit. 

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Hanneke Weitering is an editor at Space.com with 10 years of experience in science journalism. She has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.