China set to launch cargo spacecraft

China’s first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 is scheduled to be launched into space between April 20 and 24, according to the office of China’s manned space program.

The team responsible for the power system arrived at the launch centre in Wenchang, south China’s Hainan province on Thursday.

The team will prepare the Long March-7 carrier rocket that will carry Tianzhou-1 into space. The Long March-7 Y2 is a medium-sized rocket that can carry up to 13.5 tonnes to low-Earth orbit. It is able to carry cargo spacecraft and man-made satellites. It made its maiden flight in June 2016.

According to Liu Zhirang, head of the Sixth Research Institute of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, the difficulty lies in refueling in space.

Tianzhou-1 is expected to dock with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab three times before falling back to earth, while the latter will remain in orbit and continue its work.

The Tianzhou-1 mission will complete the second phase of China’s manned space program and is a crucial step for China in establishing a space station around 2022.