Beijing: China on Thursday successfully launched its first unmanned cargo spacecraft, taking another crucial step towards realising the Communist giant’s ambition to have a permanently manned space station in the next few years.
Powered by a Long March-7 Y2 carrier rocket, Tianzhou-1 roared into the air from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in the southern Hainan Province, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Hours later, space department officials declared the launch a success, as it entered the designated orbit.
In space, the cargo ship will dock with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space station, provide fuel and other supplies, and conduct space experiments before falling back to Earth.
China aims to build a permanent space station by 2022, that is expected to orbit for at least 10 years, and the debut of the cargo ship is important as it acts as a courier to help maintain the space station.
Without a cargo transportation system, the station would run out of power and basic necessities, causing it to return to Earth before the designated time.