China will launch its second experimental space laboratory late on Thursday, highlighting the nation’s ambitions to establish itself as a space power.
Tiangong 2 will be launched just after 10 pm local time from a site in the Gobi desert, Reuters reports, citing a mission spokeswoman.
“Launching Tiangong 2 is a key battle in comprehensively completing the space laboratory stage mission, and will establish a firm foundation for our country’s continued space station construction and operation,” spokeswoman Wu Ping was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, she also confirmed an upcoming manned space mission.
The Shenzhou 11 spacecraft, which will carry two astronauts and dock with Tiangong 2, will be launched sometime in October, Wu said at a news conference Wednesday.
The astronauts expect to remain in Tiangong 2 for about a month, she said.
In a manned space mission in 2013, three Chinese astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with an experimental space laboratory, the Tiangong 1, or “Heavenly Palace”.
China will launch a “core module” for its first space station some time around 2018, a senior official said in April, part of a plan for a permanent manned space station in service around 2022.
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