China successfully launches cargo spacecraft to dock with space station module

Beijing: China on Saturday successfully launched an automated cargo spacecraft carrying supplies, equipment and propellant for the country’s new space station Tianhe.

The Long March-7 Y3 rocket, carrying Tianzhou-2, blasted off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan, the China Manned Space Agency announced.

Spacecraft Tianzhou-2 is scheduled to dock with core the module of the space station Tianhe to deliver supplies, equipment and propellant. It was launched after over a week’s delay due to “technical reasons”.

Tianzhou-2 was launched for the first space station supply mission despite the initial delay, state-run Global Times reported.

The Tianhe module will act as the management and control hub of the space station Tiangong, meaning Heavenly Palace, with a node that could dock with up to three spacecraft at a time for short stays.

China successfully launched the core module of its space station on April 29 as part of its aim to complete the construction of the facility by the end of next year.

It was launched using China’s biggest rocket the Long March-5B Y2 which after placing the core module caused global stir as it fell back to Earth. Its remnants safely crashed into the Indian Ocean near the Maldives on May 9 with no reports of damage.

The hurtling debris of the rocket evoked sharp criticism from the US, NASA and international astrophysicists that Beijing has won a reckless gamble the uncontrolled fall of the rocket stroked fears that it may fall into inhabited areas.

NASA Administrator Senator, Bill Nelson, criticised China for leaving the rocket to make an uncontrolled re-entry.

“Spacefaring nations must minimise the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations,” Nelson said in a statement.

“It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris. It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities,” Nelson said.

A major space power, China launched its first Mars mission ‘Tianwen-1′ on July 23 this year. The Mars spacecraft which included an orbiter, lander and rover is currently exploring the Red planet.

The Chinese space station was expected to be a competitor to the aging International Space Station (ISS) which is a modular space station in low Earth orbit.

It is a multinational collaborative project involving five participating space agencies which included NASA (US), Roscomos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe) and CSA (Canada). China’s Tiangong is expected to be the sole space station once the ISS retires.

Saturday’s launch was the first time that the space station cargo transportation system, composed of the Tianzhou spacecraft and Long March-7 rockets, was put into use, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

More than 160 large and small packages, including supplies for astronauts and space science equipment, and two tonnes of propellant have been loaded into the cargo freighter, according to the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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