China has launched an experimental module into space as part of its future plans for a manned station.
Tiangong-1, which translates as ‘heavenly place’, blasted off from a space port in the north of the country on the edge of the Gobi desert.
The module is designed to test docking technology with the country’s Shenzhou spacecraft. Running through these manoeuvres is vital preparation for the anticipated space station, which China says will be up and running by the end of the decade. Astronauts are already in training for two manned missions gearing towards the space station next year.
An animation has also been released showing Tiangong-1 entering its orbit and how it would meet up with another unmanned spacecraft due to launch later this year. This will be the first big test for Tiangong-1, which is scheduled stay docked with the aircraft for 12 days.