China Launches First “Heavenly Harmony” Space Station Module

China has launched the first module of its proposed space station into orbit with plans to launch further modules in the coming months.

The Tianhe, or “Heavenly Harmony”, is an unmanned core module that houses astronaut living quarters. It was launched from Wenchang in China’s Hainan province on Thursday using a Long-March 5B rocket.

The space station is set to come online in 2022 following 10 missions where additional parts and modules will be sent and assembled in orbit. China plans to use this space station to have a permanent human presence in space, as well as to have a relay point for further missions to Mars.

The space station will circle the Earth in low-orbit at around 450 kilometers (279 miles) above the planet’s surface.

Recently the Chinese government has poured billions of dollars into space exploration and research in an attempt to catch up with the U.S. and Russia. Russia just recently entered an agreement with China to help with their proposed lunar station. This agreement will see Russia leave the International Space Station (ISS).

China has said that they do not plan use their space station for international cooperation on the scale of the ISS, but has said they are open to foreign collaboration.

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