China's cargo spacecraft docks with orbital laboratory for 1st time

China’s first cargo spacecraft docks with space lab

The automatic procedure was the first in the nation's fast-paced space exploration program.

The spacecraft is created 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.

Global mainstream media have hailed China's successful launch of its first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1, which has docked with a space lab.

Minutes later, as the spacecraft cleared the atmosphere, the mission was declared a success by administrators at ground control on the outskirts of the capital, Beijing.

Reuters reported that China's first cargo spacecraft's launch and successful docking with the Tiangong-2 space lab marked a major step toward Beijing's goal of establishing a permanently manned space station by 2022.

Tianzhou-1 is larger and heavier than Tiangong-2, which is 10.4 metres in length and has a maximum diameter of 3.35 metres, weighing 8.6 tonnes. The pair spent 30 days on board the station previous year.

The procedure, which follows the launch of Tianzhou-1 on Thursday from Wenchang, marks the beginning of two months of tests of refuelling in microgravity, a process required for keeping the future Chinese Space Station (CSS) in orbit.

The ship has brought some six tons of cargo into space, including fuel for resupplying the space station and material for stem cell experiments.

According to the original plan, Tianzhou-1 would dock with the Tiangong-2 space lab for a total of three times during its five month space mission.

After reaching Tiangong 2, the newly launched cargo spacecraft is expected to carry out scientific experiments in support of a fully operational space laboratory.

If the International Space Station will come out of service in 2024, as planned, China might become the only country with an operating space station, said the DPA report. Some say that the Chinese government offers to finance missions to Tiangong-2.

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