China's Tiangong-2 space lab as viewed from the Shenzhou-11 spaceship. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese researchers have reportedly completed the first test of a propulsion system for an experiment module for the country’s future space station Tiangong, whose launch is slated between 2020 and 2021.

Xinhua noted that the test, conducted at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp’s lab in Xi’an, mimicked all the working procedures and maneuvers and rendezvous of an in-orbit experiment module.

It also simulated possible errors the module may encounter in space, including extinguishing an engine fire and starting a back-up power system. All test results met parameters of the original design, reports said.

Meanwhile, electrical power of the experiment module will be provided by two steerable solar power arrays, which use photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity.

Energy is stored to power the entire Tiangong station when it moves into the Earth’s shadow. Resupply ships will replenish fuel for the station’s propulsion engines to counter the effects of atmospheric drag.

Two experiment modules of the Tiangong will be sent into space after the core module is up and running in about 2020, according to Yang Liwei, the director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office and the country’s first taikonaut.

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