天舟快递(tiānzhōu kuàidì):Tianzhou-1 express delivery
The office of China's space program has announced that Tianzhou-1, China's first cargo and resupply spacecraft, will be launched between Thursday and Monday.
According to the office, Tianzhou-1 was transported along with a Long March-7 carrier rocket to the launch zone in Wenchang, southern China's Hainan province, which indicates the first Tianzhou-1 express delivery is about to be made.
Tianzhou-1 is the first cargo spacecraft independently developed by China. The overall length of the spacecraft is 10.6 meters, and it can operate independently in space for 3 months.
It is expected to dock with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab 390 kilometers above the Earth and conduct in-orbit refueling.
Testing and verifying the in-orbit transfer of liquid propellant to Tiangong-2, which late last year hosted two astronauts for China's longest human spaceflight mission so far, is the main objective of the mission.
Tianzhou-1 will also complete some space experiments including one on non-Newtonian gravitation, before falling back to earth.
If successful, Tianzhou-1 will be another major step toward China achieving its goal of establishing a permanent human presence in space by 2022.