China launches first cargo spacecraft

2017-04-20 19:28
A Long March 7 rocket carrying the Tianzhou 1 cargo spacecraft blasts off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Wenchang in southern China's Hainan Province. (Yang Guanyu, Xinhua via AP)

A Long March 7 rocket carrying the Tianzhou 1 cargo spacecraft blasts off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Wenchang in southern China's Hainan Province. (Yang Guanyu, Xinhua via AP)

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Wenchang - A Chinese rocket successfully sent the country's first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-1, into space from the southern island province of Hainan on Thursday.

Fuelled by liquid oxygen and kerosene, the Long March-7 Y2 carrier rocket blasted off from Hainan's Wenchang Space Launch Center at 19:41  (11:41 GMT).

Hundreds of spectators who had been waiting to observe the launch since the afternoon cheered and clapped in the stands.

Journalists and local hobbyists with long-range zoom lenses snapped photos of the rocket as it made its swift ascent.

Tianzhou-1, the first cargo spacecraft developed by China, is headed to dock with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab, which was launched last September.

The cargo ship is a "crucial step" toward China's goal of completing its own crewed space station by 2022, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The tube-like craft measures 10.6 m in length and can carry over six tonnes of cargo as well as satellites, Xinhua said.

It will also conduct experiments in space, including one on non-Newtonian gravitation, before falling back to Earth, Xinhua said.

Beijing sees its multi-billion-dollar space programme as a symbol of its rise and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

In 2011, the US Congress ruled that Chinese astronauts would not be allowed on the International Space Station because of national security concerns.

Read more on:    china  |  space

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