China will put a second space laboratory in orbit in the third quarter of this year, part of the country’s plan to have a permanent manned space station in service around 2022, Reuters said, citing a report from state news agency Xinhua.
President Xi Jinping has called for the country to establish itself as a space power, making its space program a priority concern for the government.
Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 2 is expected to be docked with a cargo ship, Tianzhou 1 (Heavenly Vessel) which is scheduled to be launched in the first half of next year, Xinhua said.
China also plans to launch Shenzhou 11 spacecraft, which will carry two astronauts on board, in the fourth quarter of this year to dock with Tiangong 2, the report said.
Xinhua, citing an unnamed spokesperson for the space program, said China is expected to complete by 2020 an orbiting space station, to consist of a core module and two attached laboratories.
The first space lab, Tiangong 1, was launched in 2011, and has been working well.
China’s space program must still master launching cargo and fuel via space freighters and recycling air and water for extended manned missions, according to state media.
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