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China science

China to launch first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou 1

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 12:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 1:05pm

China will launch its first cargo spacecraft on Thursday, state media said, taking another step towards its goal of establishing a permanently manned space station by 2022.

President Xi Jinping has prioritised advancing China’s space programme to strengthen national security and defence.

What is the Tianzhou 1 and why does it matter in China’s ambitious space mission?

The Tianzhou-1 cargo resupply spacecraft will be launched at 7.41pm (1141 GMT), borne aloft on a Long March-7 Y2 rocket from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre in the southern island province of Hainan, the Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.

It is designed to dock with the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, or “Heavenly Palace 2”, where two astronauts spent a month in space last October in China’s longest ever manned space mission.

The mission will provide an “important technological basis” for the construction of China’s space station, Xinhua said.

What the Chinese astronauts did during their month-long space mission on Tiangong-2

The spacecraft can carry 6 tonnes of goods, 2 tonnes of fuel and can fly unmanned for three months, state media have said.

Despite the advances in its space programme for military, commercial and scientific purposes, China still lags the United States and Russia.

Why China decided to give 49-year-old astronaut record third mission

In late 2013, China’s Jade Rabbit moon rover landed on the Moon to great national fanfare, but ran into severe technical difficulties.

The US Defence Department has highlighted China’s increasing space capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets in a crisis.