A Chinese cargo missile is on its way to the Chinese space station under construction Tiangong. Launched from Hainan Island, the unmanned missile has equipment on board that will be automatically transferred to the space station upon arrival.
The core module of the station was brought into orbit a month ago. By the end of next year, Tiangong Space Station (Heavenly Palace) must be ready. In the meantime, many unmanned and manned flights are planned to complete construction and put the station into operation.
Watch the launch of the rocket here:
The launch of the cargo rocket, called Tianzhou (Heavenly Vessel) 2, was scheduled for last week, but was postponed due to technical problems. Now everything has gone well, says the Chinese news agency Xinhua.
On board are supplies and fuel, preparing for the first manned flight to Tiangong in June. Then three astronauts (also called taikonauts or yuhangyuan) go to the space station for a three-month stay. Three new astronauts will follow in the autumn. In between there is another unmanned cargo flight.
The core module of Tiangong has yet to be expanded with two larger research modules. This gives China a full-fledged space station, as a smaller counterpart to the ISS which is beginning to come to the end of its service life.
If the ISS is decommissioned, China is the only country with a functioning space station. At the moment it looks like it will be in 2028, but the decommissioning of the ISS has already been postponed several times.