China launched its first cargo spacecraft today, taking another step towards its goal of establishing a permanently manned space station by 2022. President Xi Jinping has prioritised advancing China’s space programme to strengthen national security. The Tianzhou-1 cargo resupply spacecraft lifted off on a Long March-7 Y2 rocket from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre in the southern island province of Hainan.
The spacecraft is designed to dock with the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, where two astronauts spent a month last October in China’s longest ever manned space mission. The cargo spacecraft mission will provide an important technological basis for the construction of China’s space station. The spacecraft can carry 6 tonnes of goods, 2 tonnes of fuel and can fly unmanned for three months