China’s National Space Administration launched a rocket with supplies for the nation’s new space station on Saturday.
The Long March 7 rocket, carrying the automated Tianzhou-2 cargo ship, lifted off at 8:55 pm (1255 GMT) from the Wenchang Space Center on Hainan Island in the South China Sea. The agency said the spacecraft entered orbit 10 minutes later and the launch was a “perfect success.”
Tianzhou-2 was carrying fuel and supplies to the Chinese orbital base, according to information previously released by state media. The central module of the station was placed in orbit on April 29.
The Chinese space agency says 11 launches are planned until the end of next year to deliver two more modules for the 70-ton station, supplies and a three-member crew.
China was criticized for allowing part of the rocket launched by Tianhe, the central module of the space station, to return to Earth without control. There was no indication of what Beijing planned to do with Saturday’s launch rocket.
Tianhe, which means “Harmony of the Heavens,” is the third and largest orbiting station launched by China’s increasingly ambitious space program.
Beijing does not participate in the International Space Station, largely due to objections from the United States. Washington distrusts the secretive environment of the Chinese program and its military connections.