China is set to launch the core module of its first permanent space station next spring, to be constructed over 11 missions in the next two years and completed by 2022. Astronauts are already in training for the China-built and operated Tiangong Space Station project, and will also carry out retrieval missions and test in-orbit technologies, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Beijing has been pushing ahead with an ambitious space programme, which includes plans to set up a lunar station by 2045. Its major accomplishment of the year – completed in December – was the Chang’e 5 mission to the moon which returned with 1.73kg (3.8lb) of rock samples – the first country to do so since the US and the former Soviet Union in the 1960s and 70s. The bold ambitions behind China’s Chang’e 5 moon mission Development and manufacture of the space station’s core module have been completed, along with the Long March-5B Y2 carrier rocket, according to Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s manned space programme. “The testing is in its final stage. We will start the key technology test and construction of the Chinese space station next spring,” he said. “The top priority of our work is to ensure the success of each launch mission, the reliable in-orbit operation of spacecraft and the safety of astronauts, so as to make sure they can work efficiently and complete their missions,” he added. In May, Long March-5B made its maiden flight, sending the trial version of a new-generation of manned craft into space from the Wenchang launch site on the southern island of Hainan, according to state news agency Xinhua. The large carrier rocket has been developed for China’s manned space programme and will be mainly used to launch the modules for the space station. Launch tasks for the construction phase of the space station will also be carried out at Wenchang, the state-run Science and Technology Daily reported. Five days after the return of the Chang’e 5 moon mission, China launched another new carrier rocket from Hainan island on Tuesday – the latest addition to the Long March range, which it hopes can meet demand for economical, medium-lift, high-frequency commercial missions . The CZ-8 has the potential to be reusable, cutting costs, and will have non-toxic propellants. It will take about 10 days to prepare for launch, with a capacity of at least 10 launches each year.