As part of the country’s space lab program, China also plans to launch the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft, which will carry two astronauts on board, in the fourth quarter of this year to dock with Tiangong-2, according to the program’s spokesperson.
After its first test flight in the Wenchang satellite launch center in South China’s Hainan province, a next-generation Long March-7 rocket will put the country’s first cargo ship Tianzhou-1, which literally means “heavenly vessel,” into space in the first half of 2017 to dock with Tiangong-2 and conduct experiments.
During the process, China will verify key technologies including cargo transportation, on-orbit propellant resupply, astronauts’ medium-term stay, as well as conduct space science and application experiments on a relatively large scale, the spokesperson said.
Preparation for the space lab program is progressing steadily, according to the spokesperson.
The astronauts to board the Shenzhou-11 are receiving training, while the Tiangong-2, Shenzhou-11, two Long March-2F carrier rockets to be used to lift them into space, the Long March-7 rocket, and the Tianzhou-1 are either being assembled or undergoing assembly examination.
China’s multi-billion-dollar space program, a source of surging national pride in the country, aims to put a permanent manned space station into service around 2022.