An automated cargo rocket carrying supplies for China’s new space station has blasted off from an island in the South China Sea.
A Long March 7 rocket carrying the Tianzhou-2 took off at 8.50pm (1.50pm BST) from the Wenchang launch centre on Hainan Island, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The Tianzhou-2 carried fuel and supplies for the Tianhe space station, state media reported earlier. The station’s core module was launched into orbit April 29.
The Chinese space agency says 11 launches are planned through to the end of next year to deliver two more modules for the 70-tonne space station, supplies and its three-member crew.
Home delivery service from Earth to Space!#China successfully launched #Tianzhou2 ('Heavenly Ship') unmanned cargo spacecraft on Saturday night to dock with the #spacestation core module #Tianhe to deliver supplies, equipment & propellant: the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA). pic.twitter.com/4G4nxIwbh4
— Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka (@ChinaEmbSL) May 29, 2021
China was criticised for allowing part of the rocket that launched the Tianhe to fall back to Earth uncontrolled earlier this month.
There was no indication about what Beijing plans to do with the rocket from Saturday’s launch.
The Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, is the third and largest orbital station launched by China’s increasingly ambitious space programme.
Beijing does not participate in the International Space Station, largely due to US objections.
Washington is wary of the secrecy surrounding the Chinese program and its military connections.