China launches first cargo spacecraft

China launches its 1st unmanned cargo spacecraft

China launches first unmanned cargo carrier on mission to space station

China's ambition to launch a permanently-crewed space station is a little closer today after the nation successfully launched its first robot space truck.

The ship, dubbed Tianzhou-1, will attempt to dock with China's Tiangong II space lab and conduct in-orbit refueling.

The six tonnes (6,000kg) of cargo it hauled on this mission is significant, as that's the same payload SpaceX's Dragon can haul and a little more than Orbital's ATK or current Russian re-supply vessels. Sustaining a manned space station would be the crowning achievement of China's ambitious space program, whose budget, though dwarfed by that of the USA, is set to triple by 2026. The Tianzhou-One's mission will last for three months.

Also important for the mission's success is transfer of fuel from Tianzhou-1 to Tiangong-2.

Last year, China cut communications with its first prototype space station, Tiangong 1, which was launched in 2011. In-space fuel transfer has only been done by Russian Federation and the USA.

The experiments include the studies of the proliferation and differentiation of stem cells, the differentiation of germ cells, and the impact on bone cells of a microgravity environment, said Li Xuzhi, deputy chief designer of the space application system of China's manned space program. DevOps, continuous delivery and containerisation.

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