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China launched its second of three space station modules into orbit on Sunday, leaving the country with just one final step before it has a fully operational station.
The Taigong space station is expected to be manned and operational by the end of 2022, and the third and final module is scheduled to launch in October. Sunday’s module contains three sleeping areas and space for scientific research, according to the Agence France-Presse.
Taigong translates to “heavenly palace” in English.
If completed successfully, the station is expected to last more than 10 years in orbit.
Chinese astronauts returned from a six-month trip aboard the first module in April. The team was tasked with finalizing preparations for the module, which originally launched in April 2021.
Sunday’s launch of the second module was unmanned.
China must rely on its own space stations after it was barred from accessing the International Space Station over U.S. objections.
Chinese investment in spaceflight and other rocket technology comes amid an ongoing arms race with the U.S. and Russia. All three countries are currently developing hypersonic weapons.
The U.S. successfully tested a hypersonic missile off the California coast in early July.
The Lockheed Martin-produced missile is designated the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW). Hypersonic weapons fly in the upper atmosphere and reach incredible speeds of up to Mach 5, or more than 3,800 miles per hour.