China prepares to launch country's first cargo spacecraft

Gladys Abbott
April 20, 2017

The cargo spacecraft was transferred with a Long March-7 Y2 carrier rocket from the testing centre to the launch zone in Wenchang, southern China's Hainan Province, a statement from the office of China's manned space programme said today.

China will launch its first cargo spacecraft on Thursday, state media said, taking another step towards its goal of establishing a permanently manned space station by 2022.

In late 2013, China's Jade Rabbit moon rover landed on the Moon to great national fanfare, but ran into severe technical difficulties.

Measuring 10.6 meters in length and up to 3.35 meters in diameter, the tube-like Tianzhou-1 can carry over 6 tonnes of cargo. There is one capsule each for carrying the cargo and the propellant, and the spacecraft will weigh about 13 tons at liftoff. It is expected to operate in orbit at an altitude of 380 kilometers before docking with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab.

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Currently, only US and Russian Federation have the technology of liquid propellant transferring in orbit.

Tianzhou 1, which can carry around six tonnes of supplies, is crucial to the development of the Chinese space station.

China now is in the process of building permanent station by 2022 to rival Russia's International Space Station (ISS).

According to Xinhua, the mission will provide an "important technological basis" for the construction of China's space station.

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