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China's space station to be ready by 2022

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BEIJING (PTI): China on Wednesday unveiled its ambitious space programme timetable that includes building up the country's first space station by 2022, by which time it could also become the world's only functioning space facility.

Yang Liwei, who in 2003 became China's first man in space and is now the deputy chief of the country's Manned Space Agency, made the announcement in Beijing at the annual meeting of the Association of Space Explorers Congress.

The space station, which was earlier slated to be completed by 2020 and is currently under experimental mode, could also become the lone space station by that time as the International Space Station- Mir (jointly operated by Russia, US, Europe, Japan and Canada) was expected to be scrapped by 2020.

After the launch of the Tiangong-2 space lab around 2016, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft and Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft will be launched to dock with it, Liwei said.

Around 2018, a core experimental space module will be launched ahead of the space station being completed in around eight years' time, Yang was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

A new launch centre in the southernmost province of Hainan is almost complete and can already launch space vehicles, he added.

China launched its first space lab, the Tiangong-1, in September 2011, and in June 2012, it docked with the manned Shenzhou-9 with three astronauts onboard.

In June 2013, Shenzhou-10 docked with the lab and the three astronauts delivered a physics lesson onboard Tiangong-1.

Since the government approved a manned station programme in 2010, it has been progressing steadily, as various modules, space vehicles and ground facilities are under development.

The development of Tiangong-2, Tianzhou, Shenzhou-11, and the Long March 2F carrier rocker is at the key stage, while the ground facilities will soon start preparing for their missions, Yang said.

The core experimental module and the two space labs will also begin to be tested soon, he said.

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