TIME space

China Launches Second Space Station, Tiangong 2

China Space
Chinatopix—AP The Long March 7 rocket carrying the Tiangong-2 module blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province, Sept. 15, 2016.

Two astronauts will dock with the station for a month

China launched its second space station, Tiangong 2, on Thursday, according to state media reports.

A Long March 7 rocket carried the station into space from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China. Next month, the Shenzou 11 spaceship will carry two astronauts and dock with the station for a month.

This development comes five years after the country launched its first space station, Tiangong 1, in September 2011. The new station marks a step forward for China, which hopes to send a mission to Mars in the not-so-distant future, the Associated Press reports.

The Tiangong 2, whose name means “Heavenly Palace,” will be used to test space technology and conduct medical and space experiments, according to the Associated Press.

After this launch, China wants to create a manned space station by around 2022, the BBC reported, and the country has said it plans to land a rover on Mars by 2020.

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