China successfully launched a spaceship Tuesday night carrying three astronauts on a mission to complete the nation's first space station and begin its operations, with President Xi Jinping pledging to make the Asian country a space power.
A rocket carrying the Shenzhou-15 spaceship lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China's northwest province of Gansu at 11:08 p.m.
Once the spaceship docks with the Tianhe core module, it will complete the Tiangong space station. Three Chinese astronauts will join three others who have been aboard since June, according to the China Manned Space Agency.
The three male astronauts on the latest mission, all members of the People's Liberation Army, will stay in the space station for six months and replace the other three.
The T-shaped space station has two lab modules. The astronauts will conduct more than 40 experiments in space science research, medicine and technology, and extravehicular activities.
Ji Qiming, assistant to the CMSA director, told a press conference Monday that China will welcome astronauts from other countries to conduct experiments on the space station, and many nations have expressed their readiness.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said earlier this month the Tiangong space station is the first one open to all U.N. member states, and science experiments from 17 countries, including Germany, Italy, Poland and Switzerland, will be conducted on it.
The Chinese space station, expected to operate for up to 15 years, could become the only one after the International Space Station concludes its mission.
The United States has expressed its commitment to the safe operation of the orbiting laboratory, currently also operated by Japan, Russia, Canada and the European Space Agency, through 2030.