BEIJING China will put a second space laboratory in orbit in the third quarter of this year, state news agency Xinhua said on Sunday, part of the country's plan to have a permanent manned space station in service around 2022.
Advancing China's space program is a priority for Beijing, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power.
Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 2 is expected to be docked with a cargo ship, Tianzhou 1 (Heavenly Vessel) which is scheduled to be launched in the first half of next year, Xinhua said.
China also plans to launch Shenzhou 11 spacecraft, which will carry two astronauts on board, in the fourth quarter of this year to dock with Tiangong 2, the Xinhua report said.
Xinhua, citing an unnamed spokesperson for the space program, said China was expected to complete by 2020 an orbiting space station, to consist of a core module and two attached laboratories.
The first space lab, Tiangong 1, was launched in 2011, and has been working well, said Xinhua.
China's space program must still master launching cargo and fuel via space freighters and recycling air and water for extended manned missions, state media have said.
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Richard Borsuk)