Final module for Tiangong space station launched

BEIJING: China launched the final module of its Tiangong space station, state media said, the latest step in Beijing’s ambitious space programme.

The module named Mengtian, or “dreaming of heavens,” was “launched on a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang launch centre” on China’s tropical island Hainan, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Amateur photographers and space enthusiasts watched the launch – which took place at 3.27pm yesterday – from a nearby beach.

Mengtian is the third and final major component of the T-shaped Tiangong space station and carries a number of cutting-edge science equipment into orbit, including “the world’s first space-based cold atomic clock system”, state news agency Xinhua reported.

“If successful, the cold atomic clocks will form the most precise time and frequency system in space, which should not lose one second in hundreds of millions of years,” Zhang Wei, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told Xinhua.

Beijing plans to launch space telescope Xuntian next year.

Tiangong, which means “heavenly palace”, will operate for around a decade and host a variety of experiments in near-zero gravity. It is similar to the Soviet-built Mir station that orbited Earth from the 1980s until 2001. — AFP

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