China launches first unmanned cargo spacecraft into space
China has launched its first unmanned cargo spacecraft into space from Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre in Hainan.
Launched aboard a new-generation Long March-7 rocket, the Tianzhou 1 spacecraft is designed to help China in creating its own permanent manned space station by 2022.
Within two days of its launch, Tianzhou 1 is expected to dock with the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, China’s second station in space, reported Associated Press.
Last October, two Chinese astronauts spent a month in Tiangong 2, marking the country’s longest manned space mission.
China is set to launch the 18t core module of the space laboratory by next year. Once fully developed, the 54t Tiangong 2 station will operate for a minimum of ten years.
After reaching Tiangong 2, the newly launched cargo spacecraft is expected to carry out scientific experiments in support of a fully operational space laboratory.
Last year, China cut communications with its first prototype space station, Tiangong 1, which was launched in 2011.
The abandoned station is planned to be destroyed on entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
China is currently barred by the US from using the orbiting International Space Station, mainly due to the country’s strong military links with its space programmes.
Chinese authorities are now offering financing help to other countries in order to pursue them to use Tiangong 2.
China carried out its first crewed space mission in 2003, and landed its Jade Rabbit rover on the Moon in late 2013, but the mission faced severe technical difficulties, reported Aljazeera.