BEIJING — China on Sunday launched one of two laboratory modules to complete its permanent orbiting space station.
A large number of amateur space photographers and enthusiasts watched as the Wentian launched from Hainan Island, tropical Hainan Island. The module was designed for biology and science experiments. It flew eight minutes on the Long March 5B 3 remote rocket before entering orbit according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
The Mengtian is a second module for labs, which will be launched in October. Both modules will then join Tiangong’s space station. The arrival and docking will be overseen by three astronauts who are currently residing in the core module.
It is the third launch since construction began on the Chinese satellite station. The Tianzhou-class cargo and Shenzhou-14 crewed orbital spacecraft preceded it.
China’s space program is run by the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, prompting the U.S. to exclude it from the International Space Station. China was left to manage its Tiangong station program on its own, building two stations and abandoning them before moving on to the next iteration.
According to state-owned Global Times the 23-ton laboratory module weighs more than any other spacecraft with a single-module, currently in space.
China’s space program launched its first astronaut into orbit in 2003, making it only the third country to do so on its own after the former Soviet Union and the U.S.
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