BEIJING (AP) — China says the launch of a new generation rocket marks a milestone in its increasingly ambitious space program, keeping it on schedule to place its second space station into orbit this year.
The national space agency said the lift-off of the Long March 7 rocket on Saturday brought the country closer to establishing a permanent presence in space.
The rocket was expected on Sunday to send back an experimental module with data about the rocket's performance.
A second space station, christened the Tiangong 2, is due to be slung into space in September.
Since launching its first manned mission in 2003, China has sent up an experimental space station, the Tiangong 1, staged a spacewalk and sent a rover to the moon. Further plans call for a mission to Mars.