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China launches its second space station

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China has launched its second-ever space lab, a key part of the nation’s plan to have a permanently staffed space station up and running by the early 2020s.

The uncrewed Tiangong-2 spacecraft lifted off Thursday from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 10:04 a.m. EDT (1404 GMT; 10:04 p.m. local Beijing time), riding a Long March-2F T2 rocket to orbit.

If all goes according to plan, the 9.5-ton (8.6 metric tons) Tiangong-2 — whose name translates as “Heavenly Palace” in Mandarin — will soon settle into an orbit about 236 miles (380 kilometers) above Earth and perform a series of initial tests and checkouts, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency. – READ MORE

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