Taking another step towards its goal of establishing a permanently manned space station by 2022, a Chinese rocket on Thursday successfully sent the country's first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-1, from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in Hainan province, authorities said.
In space, the cargo ship will dock with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab, provide fuel and other supplies, and conduct space experiments before returning, Xinhua news agency reported.
China aims to build a permanent space station that is expected to orbit for at least 10 years, and the debut of the cargo ship is important as it acts as a courier to help maintain the space station, according to the authorities.
Without a cargo transportation system, the station would run out of power and basic necessities, causing it to return to Earth before the designated time.
It is the first cargo ship independently developed by China.