BEIJING: China has launched its first unmanned cargo spacecraft on a mission to dock with the country's space station.
The Tianzhou 1 blasted off at 7:41 p.m. (1141 GMT) Thursday atop a latest-generation Long March 7 rocket from China's newest spacecraft launch site, Wenchang, on the island province of Hainan.
It is programmed to conduct scientific experiments after reaching the now-crewless Tiangong 2, China's second space station. A pair of Chinese astronauts spent 30 days on board the station last year.
China launched the Tiangong 2 precursor facility in September and the station's 20-ton core module will be launched next year. The completed 60-ton station is set to come into full service in 2022 and operate for at least a decade.