China’s Tiangong-2 space lab blasted off on Thursday, marking another milestone in its increasingly ambitious space program, which envisions a mission to Mars by the end of this decade and its own space station by around 2020.
In a cloud of smoke underneath a mid-autumn full moon, Tiangong-2 roared into the air at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi desert, on the back of a Long March-2F T2 rocket at 10:04 p.m. Beijing Time.
The Long March-2F T2 is a two-stage launch vehicle that uses four strap-on boosters during its first stage.
About 20 minutes later, the mission was declared a success.
Tiangong-2 separated from the rocket and entered the preset orbit 575 seconds after blast-off, a statement from the mission control read.
While in space, the 8.6-tonne Tiangong-2 will maneuver itself into an orbit about 380 kilometers above Earth for initial in-orbit tests. It will then transfer to a slightly higher orbit of about 393 kilometers above Earth’s surface. Read More