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China launches second space station

AAP logoAAP 15/09/2016

China has launched its second experimental space laboratory, part of a broader plan to have a permanent manned space station in service around 2022.

Advancing China's space program is a priority for Beijing, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power.

In a manned space mission in 2013, three Chinese astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with an experimental space laboratory, the Tiangong 1, or "Heavenly Palace".

Its successor, Tiangong 2, lifted off on a Long March rocket just after 10 pm from the remote launch site in Jiuquan, in the Gobi desert, in images carried live on state television.

The Shenzhou 11 spacecraft, which will carry two astronauts and dock with Tiangong 2, will be launched sometime next month.

The astronauts expect to remain in Tiangong 2 for about a month, testing systems and processes for mid-term stays in space and refuelling, and conduct medical and other experiments.

China would start building a space station starting as early as next year, Xinhua quoted Zhou Jianping, chief engineer of the manned spaceflight program, as saying.

The station would be more economically efficient than the International Space Station and use "more data", he said.

The Long March 7 rocket carrying the Tiangong-2 module © Provided by AAP The Long March 7 rocket carrying the Tiangong-2 module

"Once the lab mission comes to an end, China will start building our own space station," Zhou was quoted as saying.

China has been working to develop its space programme for military, commercial and scientific purposes, but is still playing catch-up to established space powers the United States and Russia.

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