(A snapshot of China Aerospace Science & Technology Corp. (CASC) Booth at Airshow China 2016)
China's largest and heaviest spacecraft, the Tianzhou 1, which also is its first cargo spaceship, was moved into place atop the new-generation Long March 7 rocket on Monday at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province in preparation for its mission.
The launch, scheduled to be carried out between Thursday and Monday, is a crucial development for the nation's upcoming manned space station, scientists said.
It also marks the second flight of the Long March 7, which made its maiden launch in June, according to the China Manned Space Agency.
Tianzhou 1 was transported by sea to the Wenchang center from Tianjin, where it was built, in mid-February. After its launch, the spacecraft will dock with the Tiangong II ("heavenly palace") space lab, which has been in orbit since September.
The cargo ship was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology and is 10.6 meters long and has a diameter of 3.35 meters. Its maximum takeoff weight is 13.5 metric tons, enabling it to carry up to 6.5 tons of supplies.
The main goals of the Tianzhou 1 mission are to supply fuel to Tiangong II and test in-orbit refueling technologies, the manned space agency said. In addition, the cargo ship will ferry more than 10 pieces of scientific equipment.