A Long March 7 rocket carrying the Tianzhou-2 spacecraft lifts off from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in southern China’s Hainan Province on Saturday. — AP
A Long March 7 rocket carrying the Tianzhou-2 spacecraft lifts off from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in southern China’s Hainan Province on Saturday. — AP

SHENZHEN: China on Sat­­­­u­­­­­r­­day successfully laun­ched an automated cargo resupply spacecraft to rendezvous with an orbiting module, in the second of a series of missions needed to complete its first permanent space station.

The Tianzhou-2, or “Heav­enly Vessel” in Chinese, bla­sted off via a Long March-7 Y3 rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan, the China Manned Space Engineering Office said.

Tianzhou-2 is the second of 11 missions needed to complete China’s first self-developed space station around 2022, and follows the launch of the key module Tianhe in late April.

The three-module space station will rival the only other station in service, the International Space Station (ISS), which is backed by countries including the United States, Russia and Japan. China was barred from participating in the ISS by the United States.

Tianzhou-2 will autonomously dock with Tianhe, which will provide supplies for future astronauts as well as propellant to maintain its orbital altitude.

The rocket’s launched was postponed this month due to technical reasons, state media said.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2021

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