China launches 1st rocket from mobile platform in Yellow Sea

China on Wednesday launched a rocket from a mobile platform at sea for the first time, sending a five commercial satellites and two others containing experimental technology into space.

The Long March 11 rocket blasted off from a launch pad aboard a commercial ship in the Yellow Sea off the coast of Shandong province, marking the 306th launch of a rocket in the Long March series, but the first one at sea.

China is the third country after the U.S. and Russia to master sea launch technology.

Sea launches offer advantages such as the ability to position closer to the equator, requiring less fuel to reach orbit and thereby lowering overall launch costs. It also reduces the possibility of damage on the ground from falling rocket debris.

The official Xinhua News Agency cited experts as saying seaborne launch technology will meet the growing demand for launches of low inclination satellites.

China’s space program has developed rapidly, especially since it conducted its first crewed mission in 2003, becoming just the third country following Russia and the U.S. to put humans into space using its own technology.

It has put two space stations into orbit and plans to launch a Mars rover in the mid-2020s. Its space program suffered a rare setback last year with the failed launch of a Long March 5 rocket.