Highlights

  • China successfully launched its cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-5
  • Spacecraft to deliver supplies for construction of its space station
  • China's space station expected to be ready this year

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China successfully launches cargo spacecraft for its space station in orbit

The cargo craft is expected to conduct a fast-automated rendezvous and docking with the space station combination.

China successfully launched its cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-5 on Saturday to deliver supplies for its space station, the construction of which is expected to be completed this year.

The Long March-7 Y6 rocket, carrying Tianzhou-5 which blasted off this morning from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in the southern island province of Hainan has successfully entered its designated orbit, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) said.

It declared the launch a complete success, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The cargo craft is expected to conduct a fast-automated rendezvous and docking with the space station combination.

Earlier, on October 31, China launched the second lab called Mengtian module to be part of its Tiangong space station taking its construction into the final stage. According to an earlier announcement by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC) the low-orbit space station construction was expected to be completed this year.

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Two batches comprising three astronauts were flown to the space station, the main module called Tianhe on a six months mission to complete the construction. While one set of astronauts returned, another set of three astronauts is currently based in Tianhe to complete its construction.

Once ready, China will be the only country to solely own a space station and will be a competitor to the NASA-led International Space Station (ISS) which is a collaborative project of several countries including Russia.

Observers say the CSS may become the sole space station to remain in orbit once the ISS retires in the coming years.

The significant feature of China's under-construction space station is its two robotic arms, especially the long one over which the US has previously expressed concern over its ability to grab objects including satellites from space.

With a larger door, Mengtian is capable of releasing miniaturised satellites into space. "Astronauts can install the small satellites on a payload transfer device, depressurise the airlock cabin, and then convey them out of the cabin," said Meng Yao, a designer of Mengtian.

"The robotic arm outside the space station will grab the satellites and then catapult them in specified directions," Meng was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

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