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China launches cargo rocket with supplies for space station

BEIJING — A rocket carrying supplies for China’s new space station blasted off Saturday from an island in the South China Sea. The Chinese space agency announced that a Long March 7 rocket carrying the automated Tianzhou-2 spacecraft took off at 8:55 p.m. (1255 GMT) from the Wenchang launch center on Hainan Island. The agency said the craft entered orbit 10 minutes later, and the launch was deemed a “perfect success.”

The Tianzhou-2 carried fuel and supplies, according to earlier state media reports. The station’s core module was launched into orbit on April 29.

The Chinese space agency says 11 launches are planned through the end of next year to deliver two more modules for the 70-ton station, supplies, and a three-member crew.

China was criticized for allowing part of the rocket that launched the Tianhe to fall uncontrolled to Earth. There was no indication about what Beijing planned to do with the rocket from Saturday’s launch.

The Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, is the third and largest orbital station launched by China’s increasingly ambitious space program. Beijing doesn’t participate in the International Space Station, mainly due to U.S. objections. Washington is wary of the Chinese program’s secrecy and its military connections.

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