China launches Tiangong-2 space lab into orbit

The Tiangong-2 space laboratory was launched into orbit on Thursday from a launch facility in the Gobi desert, according to state media reports. 

At 10:04 pm local time (1604 GMT), a Long March 2F rocket blasted off to carry the lab 393 kilometres above the earth from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in China's Inner-Mongolia region, ahead of the planned arrival of a crew of two astronauts in October. 

The first Chinese space lab, Tiangong-1, was successfully launched as a preparatory prototype in September 2011 and hosted three brief manned spaceship dockings before ceasing operations in March. 

China's space exploration programme has been making rapid progress in the past few years. 

Tiangong-2 is intended as a precursor to the building of a full-size manned space station. 

The China National Space Programme aims to launch the core module of the space station in 2018 with a goal of completing the station by 2022. 

The whole programme is closely supervised by the ruling Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army, both of which are led by President Xi Jinping.

Experts say the successes of the programme are significant for China's one-party rulers to garner support from the population and to boost international prestige.

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

Last update: Thu, 15/09/2016 - 17:11

More from Science & Tech

Hundreds of South Koreans sue Samsung over Galaxy Note7: report

Hundreds of South Korean Galaxy Note7 owners filed a joint lawsuit Monday against Samsung seeking compensation after...

Swedish court grounds camera-equipped drones

A Swedish court ruling stating that drones equipped with cameras should fall under legislation regulating...

Lander crash has not endangered Mars mission, Russian experts say

The Russian-European ExoMars space mission remains on track despite the Mars lander Schiaparelli's crash on...

Mars lander may have "exploded on impact," European Space Agency says

The European Space Agency's Schiaparelli Mars lander may have "exploded on impact" after a failed descent to the...

Mars orbiter a success, but fate of lander uncertain after touchdown

The orbiter in a joint European and Russian mission to Mars has been a complete success, but it is not known if the...