The Tianhe module is one of the three main components of the building of the space station China, which is intended to compete with the international space station.
China has launched an unmanned module with living quarters for three crew members on a permanent space station that is expected to be completed by the end of 2022, state media reported.
The module called “Tianhe” or “Harmony of the Heavens” was launched on Thursday at 03:23 GMT from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on the southern island of Hainan on Long March 5B, China’s largest launcher.
Tianhe is one of the three main components of China’s first self-developed space station that competes with the only other station in use – the International Space Station (ISS).
The ISS is supported by leading countries such as the United States, Russia, and Japan. China has been banned from participating in the ISS by the US.
Tianhe will provide the main living quarters for three crew members in the Chinese space station, which will have a lifespan of at least 10 years.
The Tianhe launch was the first of eleven missions needed to complete the space station, which will orbit the earth at an altitude of 340 km to 450 km.
In the later missions, China will launch the other two core modules, four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft.
Work on the space station program began 10 years ago with the launch of a Tiangong-1 space laboratory in 2011 and later Tiangong-2 in 2016.
Both helped China test the program’s space rendezvous and docking capabilities.
China has made space exploration a priority in recent years to become a major space power by 2030.
A program is expected to be in place by 2045 that will conduct thousands of space flights annually and carry tens of thousands of tons of cargo and passengers.