Apr 29, 2021 - Science

China launches Tianhe module of new space station

 People watch the Long March-5B Y2 rocket carrying the core module of China's space station, Tianhe, blasting off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on April 29
People watch the Long March-5B Y2 rocket carrying the core module of China's space station, Tianhe, blasting off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Wenchang, Hainan Province, on Thursday. Photo: Wang Longhua/VCG via Getty Images

Officials in China launched the core element of a new permanent space station into orbit on a Long March-5B Y2 rocket from Wenchang in Hainan Province, Thursday, per the BBC.

Why it matters: The launch from Wenchang Space Launch Center marks a significant step in the space program drive of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, seen as a rival to the U.S. in space.

  • China's government is excluded from the International Space Station program — the only space station in orbit.

Of note: The module, called Tianhe, or Harmony of the Heavens, is the first component launched.

  • Scientists in China had made use of two smaller test stations in orbit that hosted crew before moving on to this more complex design, Axios' Miriam Kramer notes.

What to watch: The goal is to have the Chinese Space Station operational by the end of next year, Space.com reports.

Flashback: The big picture on China's space station that fell out of the sky

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