A Long March 7 (CZ-7) launch vehicle lifted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on Hainan Island, South West China, at 1140 GMT on 20 April 2017. The rocket was carrying the Tianzhou-1 unmanned freighter spacecraft into orbit.

Long March 7 launches China’s first space freighter. Courtesy: Xinhua with permission

The 13,000kg freighter, which is China’s equivalent of the Russian Progress, European ATV or Japanese HTV heavy cargo spacecraft, was on its first flight and due to dock with China’s second man-tended mini-space station, Tiangong-2. The Tianzhou-1 is designed to refuel the space station and carry food and cargo for astronauts aboard the station. In total 6,500kg of cargo and fuel can be carried.

Update on 24 April 2017: Tianzhou-1 docked with the Tiangong-2 mini-space station in an automated procedure at 0416 GMT on 22 April 2017.

Update on 27 April 2017: A refuelling by Tianzhou-1 of the Tiangong-2 space station took place over five days after docking.

Tianzhou-1 approaches to dock with Tiangong-2 Courtesy: CCTV