China launched its first space lab module Tiangong-1 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Thursday.
The Long March-2FT1 rocket carrying the module blasted off at 09:16 pm Beijing Time (13:16 GMT) and has already reached its designated orbit.
The module will test docking with a spacecraft by mid-November, paving the way for China to become the third country to operate a permanent space station around 2020, state news agency Xinhua said. The next two docking tests will take place in 2012.
The 8.5-tone module will remain in the orbit for two years, operating mainly in an unmanned regime. It is also capable of carrying up to three astronauts for 20 days.