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China launches cargo flight to new space station

China is building is own space station to rival the ISS, which will be ready by 2022

China is building is own space station to rival the ISS, which will be ready by 2022

China on Saturday launched an automated cargo rocket carrying supplies to the country's space station, which is due for completion in 2022, the Xinhua state news agency reported.

Tianzhou-2 or "Heavenly Vessel" blasted off via a Long March-7 Y3 rocket from the Wenchang spaceport on the southern Chinese island of Hainan.

Tianzhou-2 was supposed to be launched last week but liftoff was delayed at the last minute due to a technical fault.

Construction needs several missions

The spacecraft is the second of 11 cargo missions needed to complete China's first self-developed space station, and follows the launch of the key module Tianhe in late April.

Tianzhou-2 has supplies and fuel onboard and will dock at the space station's core module to automatically unload its cargo.

In order to complete the Chinese space station, two laboratory modules, each weighing a good 20 tons each will need to be brought into space.

Saturday's mission is also a preparation for the flight of three astronauts, who will be launched from the Jiuquan launch center in the Gobi Desert next month.

They are due to stay aboard the core module for three months.

Several other cargo flights and manned missions are planned over the next year.

Will China's space station be alone?

When the International Space Station (ISS) ends its mission in 2030, China is on course to be the only country to have a permanent outpost in space.

The ISS is a collaboration of the US, EU, Russian, Japanese, and Canadian space programs and 15 countries, but China was barred from participating by Washington.

NASA says it is relying on private companies to create, launch and support a future ISS project.

Russia, meanwhile, has mooted its own space station but some analysts doubt whether it will be ready by 2030.

mm/csb (dpa, Reuters)

Updated : 2021-06-14 07:54 GMT+08:00