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China Finally Launches Tiangong-2 Space Lab in Preparation for 2020 Space Station

Sep 17, 2016 04:00 AM EDT
China launches its second space laboratory to test equipments to be used in their own space station.
(Photo : Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

China is quickly advancing in the field of science, and now, they are also preparing to take over space with the launch of another advanced laboratory module, Tiangong-2, that will serve as an orbital base for Chinese astronauts.

The space lab, dubbed as Tiangong-2, was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. The new spacecraft will serve as a stepping stone for China for their plan to establish their very own space station by 2020.

"The launching of Tiangong-2 is a ... solid foundation for the building of China's space station in the future and is highly significant," said Wu Ping, deputy director of China's manned space program, in a report from CBS News.

Just like its predecessor, Tiangong-1, Tiangong-2 measures 34 feet long and 11 feet across at its widest. However, the second space laboratory modules are equipped with more advanced technologies such as enhanced life support equipment and refueling systems.

"Tiangong is a precursor test bed of capabilities; building toward the large space station has always been the culminating goal of the Shenzhou program," said Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the US Naval War College specializing in space programs and space security, in a report from CNN.

Additionally, Tiangong-2 has a cold atomic instrument used to study powerful gamma ray burst in deep space. Other equipment mounted in the space lab include spectrometers and materials for science experiments and medical research.

China will send astronauts to the space lab by the end of October 2016. Chinese astronauts will stay in the space lab for 30 days to carry out laboratory experiments and test the equipments aboard the spacecraft.

Tiangong-2 is just a small fraction of China's plan to dominate space research. In July, China completed the construction of the world's largest ground-based radio telescope. Furthermore, China has already sent its first quantum communication satellite in space last August. The country also plans to make its very own version of Hubble Space Telescope in 2020.

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