China is launching the core capsule of its space station on Thursday morning, formally embarking on the buildup of one of the humanity's largest and most sophisticated space-based facilities.
The launch at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province is tasked with transporting the 22.5 ton capsule, the biggest and heaviest spacecraft China has ever constructed, to a low-Earth orbit about 400 kilometers above the land to place the first piece of the country's space station.
China's most adventurous space endeavor, the multimodule space station, named Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace, will be mainly composed of three components－a core module attached to two space laboratories－with a combined weight of nearly 70 tons.
The core capsule, named Tianhe, or Harmony of Heavens, is 16.6 meters long and has a diameter of 4.2 meters.
The module will be central to the space station's future operations, given that astronauts will live there and control the entire station from inside. It will also be used to host scientific experiments.