Beijing, April 28 (IANS) China plans to conduct several manned space flights between 2019 and 2022, during which a 60-tonne space station will be assembled and built, an official said on Friday.
"Tianzhou-1, China's first cargo spacecraft, was the last flight mission of the country's manned space programme before the construction of a permanent space station," said Wang Zhaoyao, director of China's manned space program office.
The spacecraft and Tiangong-2 space lab completed their first in-orbit refuelling late on Thursday, marking the completion of the country's space lab mission.
"The successful conclusion of the mission shows that China's manned space programme has entered the space station era," Wang said.
"The programme has been progressing steadily with its key technologies and plans already completed and its relevant flight products being tested," he said.
"Chinese astronauts are preparing for the space station era. They are expected to stay in space for three to six months or even longer during future missions."
Two astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, completed their 33-day journey, the longest mission in the country's manned space programme to date, onboard the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft on November 18 last year.
Wang said the astronauts would be engaged in more extra-vehicular activities during the construction of the space station, which could pose challenges.