China launches key module of space station planned for 2022
"Tianhe", or "Harmony of the Heavens" was launched by China on the Long March 5B, China's largest carrier rocket, at 11:23 a.m. (0323 GMT) from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre, which contains living quarters for three crew on a permanent space station that it planned to be completed by end of 2022.
It is China’s first self-developed space station with rivals of the only other space station the International Space Station (ISS), which is backed by the United States, Russia and Japan. The U.S had barred China from participating in the ISS.
Tianhe is the first launch of a part of 11 missions that are needed to complete the space station, which will orbit the Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 km. The space station will have a lifespan of at least 10 years.
Later China will be launching four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft modules.
Work on the space station programme began a decade ago with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and later, Tiangong-2 in 2016.
China has given more emphasis to its space program in the recent past, with the aim of emerging as a major space power by 2030, and with the hope of carrying tens of thousands of tonnes of cargo and passengers, by 2045, operating thousands of space flights every year.