West News Wire: One of the two laboratory modules needed to complete China’s orbiting space station was launched on Sunday.

In front of a sizable throng of amateur photographers and space enthusiasts, the Wentian was launched from the beautiful Hainan Island. According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the module, which was created for research and biological investigations, was launched on the Long March 5B remote 3 rocket and flew for around eight minutes before entering orbit.

Both the Mengtian lab module and a second one are scheduled to launch in October and join the Tiangong space station. Three astronauts who are already residing in the core module will supervise the lab’s entry and docking.

The launch is the third since the Chinese space station entered its construction phase. It was preceded by the Tianzhou-class cargo spacecraft and the Shenzhou-14 crewed spacecraft.

China’s space program is run by the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, prompting the U.S. to exclude it from the International Space Station. As a result, China largely had to work on its own in its Tiangong space station program, building and then abandoning two experimental stations before embarking on the latest iteration.

The 23-ton lab module is heavier than any other single-module spacecraft that is currently in space, according to the state-owned Global Times.

China’s space program launched its first astronaut into orbit in 2003, making it only the third country to do so on its own after the former Soviet Union and the U.S.

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