China has launched its first domestically engineered cargo spacecraft, a crucial step in Beijing's goal to launch and resupply a manned space station by 2022.
The Chinese Space Station will consist of three 20-tonne modules and be able to host up to six astronauts, with groups of three staying for around six months each.
Above: A view of the inside Tianzhou-1 and its cargo while in orbit (Framegrab/CCTV).
According to China's official Xinhua news agency, Tianzhou-1 is just over 10 metres in length and can supply 6.5 tonnes (14,330lb) of supplies, including food and fuel, to the space lab and its crew.
Image: Long March-7 rocket and Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft are seen as they are transferred to a launching spot in Wenchang, Hainan province, China, April 17, 2017.
The spaceship is expected to dock in two days with the Tiangong-2 space lab, which was launched in September.
Zheleznyakov described the launch of Tianzhou-1 as a big step for Chinese space endeavors and an outstanding event for the worldwide space sector.
According to a report, China was banned from the International Space Station (ISS) due to USA legislations and the country's obvious concerns over China's military affiliations. The Tianzhou-1 mission is the first such mission to the station, and is part of the country's plan towards establishing a permanent presence in Earth orbit.
"The ability of docking in a shorter amount of time will enable the astronauts to reach the space station faster and ensure swift transport of biological products to the station, as well as timely rescues amid emergencies", Liu Zongyu, designer of Tianzhou-1 said. Some say that the Chinese government offers to finance missions to Tiangong-2.
In late 2013, China's Jade Rabbit moon rover landed on the Moon to great national fanfare, but ran into severe technical difficulties.
China has also finally launched its first unmanned cargo spacecraft after lengthy preparations.