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China Launches Space Lab into Orbit

FILE - Chinese soldiers stand guard near the assembly of the Long March 2F rocket and the Shenzhou 10 spacecraft at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwest China's Gansu Province .

China has launched its second space laboratory into orbit Thursday, in a step towards having its own manned space station.

The Tiangong-2, or Heavenly Palace-2, lifted off from China's launch center in the Gobi desert.

The Xinhua news agency said it will be followed by a mission to carry two astronauts to the space lab in mid- to late-October for 30 days.

China will send its first cargo ship to the lab in April. A fully functional space station is envisioned by 2022.

The 8.6 ton Tiangong-2, measuring about 10 x 3 meters, replaces the Tiangong-1 launched in 2011 and will orbit at a height of 393-kilometers above the earth.