BEIJING, April 21 (Reuters) - China will launch a “core module” for its first space station some time around 2018, a senior official told the state-run Xinhua news agency on Thursday, part of the country’s plan to have a permanent manned space station in service around 2022.
Advancing China’s space programme is a priority for Beijing, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power.
The “core module” will be called the “Tianhe-1”, the Chinese word for galaxy or Milky Way, Wang Zhongyang, spokesman for the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, told Xinhua.
“Two space labs will be launched later and dock with the core module, ‘Tianhe-1,’” he said. “The construction of the space station is expected to finish in 2022.”
The report provided no other details.
China insists that its space programme is for peaceful purposes. However, the U.S. Defense Department has highlighted China’s increasing space capabilities, saying China was pursuing activities aimed at preventing its adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis.
In a manned space mission in 2013, three Chinese astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with an experimental space laboratory, the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 1. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Richard Pullin)