Beijing, Sep 20 (EFE).- China successfully launched the Tianzhou-3 spacecraft Monday to transport materials and supplies to the space station the country is building and expects to be operational next year.
Images broadcast live on state television CGTN showed the rocket taking off after 3:00 pm local time (07:00 GMT) from the Wenchang space base on the southern Chinese island of Hainan.
According to the China Manned Mission Space Agency, the spacecraft carries “supplies for the astronauts, extravehicular space suits, station supplies and propellants” for transfer “after docking with the station core.”
The spacecraft will dock with the central module Tianhe (“Heavenly Harmony” in Mandarin) to deliver the cargo, key in the overhaul of the Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”) space station.
It is one more step in the ambitious space program of the country, which on Friday saw the return to Earth of three ‘taikonauts’ (as astronauts are called in China) after a period of 90 days of work in the space station.
According to state news agency Xinhua, the space station will orbit the Earth at an altitude of between 340 and 450 kilometers, and is designed to last about 10 years, although experts cited by the source said that with proper maintenance it could operate more than 15 years. EFE