First cargo spacecraft boosts China's space dream
Xinhua, April 21, 2017 Adjust font size:
China's first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 blasts off from Wenchang Space Launch Center in south China's Hainan province, April 20, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]
China has taken another step toward its goal of putting a space station into orbit around 2022, by sending its first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 into space on Thursday evening.
Atop a Long March-7 Y2 carrier rocket, Tianzhou-1 rose into the air from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in south China's Hainan Province at 7:41 p.m.
China declared the launch a success after it entered designated orbit minutes later.
The cargo ship will dock with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab where two Chinese astronauts spent 30 days in the country's longest-ever manned space mission, provide fuel and other supplies to the latter, as well as conduct space experiments before falling back to Earth.
If the Tianzhou-1 mission is successful, China will become the third country besides Russia and the United States to master the technique of refueling in space.
China aims to build a permanent space station 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.
"The Tianzhou-1 mission includes the breakthrough of in-orbit refueling and other key technology needed to build a space station, laying a foundation for future space station operations," said Bai Mingsheng, chief designer of the cargo ship.