China Launches First Unmanned Cargo Spacecraft Tianzhou 1
It is no secret that China wants to become the next space giant. In order to do that, they showed their capability to launch Tiangong 1 and 2 and send Chinese astronauts for long haul space duties. Recently, they also managed to successfully launch their first unmanned cargo spacecraft Tianzhou 1.
The unmanned cargo was sent to space last Thursday, April 20. The cargo is bound for China's own temporary space lab, Tiangong-2. It's part of the country's goal to become the first non-U.S. nation to have its own space lab.
The Long March 7 rocket boosted Tianzhou 1 from Wenchang in Hainan, the newest Chinese spacecraft launch pad. The mission was declared a success by the ground controllers in Beijing.
Reports say that the unmanned cargo spacecraft is programmed to perform scientific experiments at the Tiangong-2 station, formerly manned by two Chinese astronauts. The pair spent 30 days on board the station last year.
Tiangong-2 was launched to prepare for China's modular space station. The Chinese space lab's core is set for launch in 2018. The space station will be assembled part by part and the 60-tonne station will be operational by 2022, according to a report.
Meanwhile, the first spacecraft Tiangong-1 is not longer operational. The Chinese government lost contact with it last year. Reports say that it is now spiraling back to Earth and is expected to burn during re-entry on Earth's atmosphere.
According to a report, China was banned from the International Space Station (ISS) due to U.S. legislations and the country's obvious concerns over China's military affiliations. But China is not one to back out, instead, they are planning to "internationalize" their own space station. Some say that the Chinese government offers to finance missions to Tiangong-2.
China has obviously launched pretty successful space missions over the years. The country is also sending a rover on Mars expected to launch in 2020.