Beijing: China`s first space lab module -- Tiangong-1 -- blasted off Thursday from Jiuquan satellite launch center in the northwest desert area.
It blasted off at 9.16 p.m. (Beijing time), Xinhua reported.
The unmanned module, carried by Long March-2FT1 rocket, will test space docking with a spacecraft later this year, paving the way for China to become the third country in the world to operate a permanent space station around 2020, the report said.
The Tiangong-1 will orbit the Earth for about one month to await Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft. Once the two vehicles successfully rendezvour, they will conduct the first space docking at a height of 340 km above Earth surface.
The module carries special cameras which will take hyperspectral images of China`s vast farmlands to detect heavy metal pollution and pesticide residue as well as plant disease, said Zhang Shancong, deputy chief designer of the Tiangong-1.
Chinese President Hu Jintao watched the launch from the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center, witnessing the latest endeavour of China`s space programme since 1992.
Premier Wen Jiabao and He Guoqiang, also members of the standing committee of the political bureau of the Communist Party of China`s central committee, were also present on this occasion.