As it draws closer to finishing the building in the next months, China on Monday attached a laboratory to its permanently orbiting space station.
A big group of amateur photographers and space enthusiasts watsciched as the Wentian laboratory was launched on Sunday from the Wenchang space facility in the tropical island province of Hainan.
According to the China Manned Space Agency, it successfully docked with the Tianhe residential section of the Tiangong space station at 3:13 a.m. Monday (1913 GMT) after a 13-hour trip.
The three astronauts could be seen inside the extended space station in subsequent photos released by the Xinhua News Agency.
According to the state-owned Global Times, the 23-ton Wentian laboratory is heavier than any other single-module spaceship in orbit and is intended for scientific and biological investigations.
The arrival and docking of the Wentian were overseen by three astronauts who began their six-month mission to the space station last month.
The Mengtian, a second laboratory module, will launch in October and complete the space station.
The laboratory module was launched three times since the Chinese space station commenced its construction phase, the last two times using the country’s most potent rocket, the Long March 5B-Y3. The crewed spacecraft Shenzhou-14 and Tianzhou-class freight spacecraft came before it.
The People’s Liberation Army, the military component of the ruling Communist Party, oversees China’s space programme, which has mostly advanced with the Tiangong programme without outside support. Because of its military links, the United States denied China access to the International Space Station.
After the former Soviet Union and the United States, China became the third nation to launch an astronaut into orbit when it did so in 2003. Its space programme last year planted a robot rover on Mars and one on the moon. Additionally, China has sent back lunar samples, and authorities have talked of a potential crewed moon expedition.