>> China leaping toward a future manned space station, launching an automated supply vessel by rocket on Thursday. It's meant to dock with Tiagong 2 Space Lab in orbit after liftoff, a practice run to master the art of delivering food and fuel by rocket. Eventually, the station will be manned, so this is an important mission.
And while China still lags the US and Russia when it comes to space programs, Reuters Ben Blanchard says this is a milestone.>> China's longer term plan is to have a space station in operation by 2022, and in order to be able do this it really needs to have an ability to get equipment up there.
To send supplies up there so it doesn't keep having to rely on sending manned missions up there, for obviously a lot more risky. So by sending up this spacecraft as cargo craft, enables it to do a much better job, much easier way of getting this equipment up into space for building the space station.
That really is the next crucial step in China's manned space program.>> Beijing's ambition to become a space super power is driving the program, and for President Xi Jinping, it's a top priority.>> He says he wants China to be a space power. So when you have support going all the way up to the top, in a country where President Xi Jinping is basically omnipotent at the moment.
Head of the military, head of the ruling party and of course Head of State, what he says, goes. So as far as China's concerned, this really is a top priority for them.>> After it sheds the rocket, China's spacecraft will take two days before it finally docks with the station.
Automatically unloading over five turns of cargo over the course of it's time in orbit.