China launches first cargo spacecraft

China launches first cargo spacecraft

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China has launched its first domestically engineered cargo spacecraft, a crucial step in Beijing's goal to launch and resupply a manned space station by 2022. The mission of the Tianzhou-1, China's biggest and heaviest spaceship to date, is to dock with the Tiangong II space lab, launched in September 2016, and conduct in-orbit refueling, which is a big technical challenge. Sustaining a manned space station would be the crowning achievement of China's ambitious space program, whose budget, though dwarfed by that of the US, is set to triple by 2026. China's manned space station, if launched as planned in 2022, would become the only one in orbit when Nasa's International Space Station is retired from service in 2028. According to the Financial Times, China's rapid space technology build-up stoked envy among regional neighbors, notably India, whose national space program has lagged behind that of its great Asian rival.