China launches its first unmanned cargo spacecraft

China launches its first unmanned cargo spacecraft

By Bella Dalima

21 Apr, 2017 | 4:50 pm

China has launched it’s first unmanned cargo spacecraft on a mission to dock with the country’s space station, marking further progress in the ambitious Chinese space program.

The Tianzhou 1 blasted off at 7.41pm Thursday atop a latest-generation Long March 7 rocket from China’s newest spacecraft launch site, Wenchang, on the island province of Hainan.

Minutes later, as the spacecraft cleared the atmosphere, the mission was declared a success by administrators at ground control on the outskirts of Beijing.

It is programmed to conduct scientific experiments after reaching the now-crew-less Tiangong 2, China’s second space station.

A pair of Chinese astronauts spent 30 days on board the station last year.

China launched the Tiangong 2 precursor facility in September and the station’s 20-tonne core module will be launched next year.

Communications with the earlier, disused Tiangong 1 experimental station were cut last year and it is expected to burn up on entering the atmosphere.

China was excluded from the 420-tonne International Space Station mainly due to US legislation barring such co-operation and concerns over the Chinese space program’s strong military connections.