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China successfully launches first cargo spacecraft

Friday, April 21, 2017
By K J M Varma

Beijing: China today successfully launched its first unmanned cargo spacecraft, taking another great leap towards realising the Communist nation's ambition to have a permanently manned space station by 2022.

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.

Hours later, officials declared the launch a success, as the spacecraft entered the designated orbit, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The tube-like craft measures 10.6 metres in length and can carry over six tonnes of cargo as well as satellites.

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.

The space centre on Tuesday had conducted the final rehearsal for the launch, which covered all systems involved in the launch, such as the rocket, spacecraft, launching site and testing, control and communication systems.

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