China has moved a step forward in its ambitious pursuit of building a permanent space station, with the successful launch of its Tiangong 2 experimental space lab into orbit on Thursday night.
Carrying Tiangong 2, a Long March 2F rocket blasted off at 10.04pm from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre deep in the Gobi Desert in northwestern China, ahead of being sent into orbit roughly 10 minutes later, according to a live broadcast on China Central TV.
Tiangong means “heavenly palace” in Putonghua.
An atomic clock regarded as the most accurate in the world and a microwave altimeter for ocean measurements were part of the payload on the lab.
A Shenzhou 11 capsule, also propelled by a Long March 2F rocket and holding two astronauts, will be launched next month, the first manned space flight in three years.
If everything goes as planned, China will have a long-term space station ready for operation no later than 2022, with its “core module” to be launched in 2018.
Full article: China stakes its claim on high frontier with launch of space lab (South China Morning Post)