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China set to launch second space lab into orbit

China will launch Tiangong 2, its second experimental space laboratory, just after 10pm on Thursday, a space programme spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Two astronauts, who would be sent to the station next month, would spend 30 days in the laboratory in China’s longest manned mission, Wu Ping said.

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Wu said the mission would be a big step towards the planned goal of building a larger orbiting facility like the International Space Station. “It shows we have got the basic skills to handle large-scale space applications.”

Compared with Tiangong 1, which was launched in 2011, the new laboratory provided a better environment for astronauts to sleep, eat and exercise, Wu said.

The astronauts will conduct more than 40 space studies, including the three winning space-science projects from a 2015 competition at Hong Kong secondary schools.

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The top project, from pupils at Shun Tak Fraternal Association Yung Yau College, studies porous membranes in zero gravity, according to the Productivity Council, which sponsored the contest.

An experiment designed at Christian and Missionary Alliance Sun Kei Secondary School will look at how silkworms transform in the environment of space, and a team at Po Leung Kuk Laws Foundation College designed a study on the oscillation of a double pendulum.