China launches second space lab into orbit

Updated: 2016-09-15 22:07

By By Zhao Lei in Jiuquan, Gansu province, and Cao Yin in Beijing(

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China sent its second space laboratory, the Tiangong II, into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China's Gobi desert on Thursday night.

The space lab lifted off atop a Long March 2F carrier rocket at 10:04 pm.

The lab is 10.4 meters high, 3.35 meters in diameter and weighs 8.6 metric tons. It is designed to stay two years in space, according to the Chinese space authority.

The space lab has two cabins with separate functions. The experiment cabin will be hermetically sealed and will act as the astronauts' living quarters, while the resource cabin will contain solar panels, storage batteries, propellant and engines.

During its mission, Tiangong II will receive visits by the Shenzhou XI manned spacecraft and Tianzhou 1 cargo spaceship.

The space lab's major tasks will be to accommodate astronauts' medium-length stay in it and test life-support technologies, to demonstrate in-orbit refueling and repair plans and to conduct experiments pertaining to space medicine and space sciences, as well as to examine technologies for a future manned space station, the China Manned Space Agency said.

China launched its first space lab, Tiangong I, in September 2011. With a designated lifespan of two years, the Tiangong 1 was in service for four and a half years and conducted six automatic and astronaut-controlled dockings with the nation's Shenzhou VIII, Shenzhou IX and Shenzhou X spacecraft.