China to launch second space lab

Beijing, Feb 28 (IANS) China will send its second orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 into space in the third quarter of this year, which is expected to dock with a cargo ship next year, authorities said on Sunday.

As part of the country’s space lab programme, China also plans to launch the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft, which will carry two astronauts on board, in the fourth quarter of this year to dock with Tiangong-2, Xinhua news agency reported.

After its first test flight in the Wenchang satellite launch centre in Hainan province, a next-generation Long March-7 rocket will put the country’s first cargo ship Tianzhou-1, which literally means “heavenly vessel” into space in the first half of 2017 to dock with Tiangong-2 and conduct experiments.

During the process, China will verify key technologies including cargo transportation, on-orbit propellant resupply, astronauts’ medium-term stay, as well as conduct space science and application experiments on a relatively large scale.

China’s multi-billion-dollar space programme aims to put a permanent manned space station into service around 2022.

China already launched its first space lab, Tiangong-1, in September 2011 and has conducted two dockings with the module in the following two years.

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