China is taking a massive step towards their mission of setting up a manned space station by 2022. The country plans to send their first cargo spacecraft into space in April, the People’s Daily, China’s official Communist Party newspaper, reported.
President Xi Jinping believes that the advances China has made in the field of space technology is necessary to boost national defence and security.
According to the China Manned Space Agency, the Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft will be launched into space by the Long March-7 Y2 rocket from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in Hainan. The spacecraft has a take-off weight of 13 metric tonnes, can carry two tonnes of fuel and transport six tonnes of payload.
The unmanned Tianzhou-1 can remain in orbit for three months and is designed to come together with Tiangong-2 space laboratory to refuel. The cargo spacecraft is built to carry essential supplies such as food, oxygen, and fuel for astronauts when their space laboratory becomes fully operational.
Aside from launching their first-ever unmanned cargo spacecraft, China’s ambitious five-year space program also includes landing a probe on the dark side of the moon by 2018, a lunar sample return mission, and sending a probe to Mars, reports said. China is also expecting to have their space lab Tiangong-3 to be up and running by 2022.
China has made remarkable advances these past few years. Tiangong-2 was launched in September 2016 to carry out China’s “longest ever manned space mission” in space, with two Chinese astronauts aboard the space laboratory. The country also successfully landed a moon rover in 2013, making it one of the few countries to have sent a rover on the moon’s surface. However, China’s Jade Rabbit had stopped operating after developing technical problems. It lasted for more than two years.