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China to launch first cargo spacecraft on April 20

PTI | Beijing |

China's first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 is to be launched into space between April 20 and 24 to dock with the orbiting experimental space station.

The cargo spacecraft was transferred with a Long March-7 Y2 carrier rocket from the testing centre to the launch zone in Wenchang, southern China's Hainan Province, a statement from the office of China's manned space programme said today.

"The completion of the transfer signals the Tianzhou-1 mission has entered its launching stage," state-run Xinhua quoted the statement as saying.

China currently is in the process of building permanent station by 2022 to rival Russia's International Space Station (ISS).

Technicians have performed several tests during the assembling of the spacecraft and rocket since February, it said.

In the following days, technicians will continue testing the spacecraft and rocket and inject fuel before the launch, it said.

Tianzhou-1 is the first cargo ship independently developed by the country.

It is expected to dock with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab and conduct in-orbit refuelling, the report said.

The cargo spacecraft will also carry out space experiments, including one on non-Newtonian gravitation, before falling back to earth, it said.