China on Thursday sent into space the core module of its space station, starting a series of key launch missions that aim to complete the construction of the station by the end of 2022.
The core module, named Tianhe, was carried into space by a Long March-5B Y2 carrier rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of south China’s Hainan Province.
Tianhe will act as the foundational module for China’s first space station in low-Earth orbit named Tiangong, which means “heavenly palace” in Chinese.
The space station will form a T-shape with Tianhe at the center and two lab capsules on each side, according to the chief designer of China’s manned space program. The Tianhe core module, 16.6 meters long with a diameter of 4.2 meters and a takeoff mass of 22.5 tonnes, is the largest spacecraft China has developed.
Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message of congratulations on the successful launch of Tianhe.