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China launches Tianhe module of new space station

Officials in China launched the core element of a new permanent space station on a Long March-5B Y2 rocket from Wenchang Space Launch Center in Wenchang, Hainan Province, Thursday, per the BBC.

Why it matters: The launch represents the evolution of the space program drive by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, seen as a rival to the U.S. in space.

Of note: The module, called Tianhe, or Harmony of the Heavens, is the first component launched.

  • Scientists in China had made use of two smaller test stations in orbit that hosted crew before moving on to this more complex design, Axios' Miriam Kramer notes.

The big picture: China's government is excluded from the International Space Station program — the only space station in orbit.

  • The goal is to have the Chinese Space Station operational by the end of next year, reports.

Flashback: The big picture on China's space station that fell out of the sky

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