China launched its first cargo spacecraft to space. The Tianzhou-1 cargo resupply spacecraft lifted off on a Long March-7 Y2 rocket from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre in the southern island province of Hainan.
The spacecraft is designed to dock with the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, or “Heavenly Palace 2”, where two astronauts spent a month last October in China’s longest ever manned space mission.
The cargo spacecraft mission will provide an “important technological basis” for the construction of China’s space station.
The spacecraft can carry 6 tonnes of goods, 2 tonnes of fuel and can fly unmanned for three months.
The cargo ship is a “crucial step” toward China’s goal of completing its own crewed space station by 2022.
It will also conduct experiments in space, including one on non-Newtonian gravitation, before falling back to Earth.
Beijing sees its multi-billion-dollar space programme as a symbol of its rise and the Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.
In 2011, the USA ruled that Chinese astronauts would not be allowed on the International Space Station because of national security concerns.