A rocket carrying Tiangong-1, China's first space lab module, launched on Thursday. China's Long March 2F rocket made a lift off at 9:16 p.m. local time from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China.
Controllers will be able to confirm that the lab is in the right orbit within a few hours.
Tiangong-1, which means Heavenly Place, is a three-story cigar-shaped module, built to conduct a two-year unmanned docking experiment and conduct robotics.
While in orbit it will dock with three other spacecrafts: China's Shenzhou 8, Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10.
With the launch of Tiangong-1 China will enter into its own Space Age that includes having a 60-ton manned space station by the year 2020.
This is a significant test, Lu Jinrong, the launch center's chief engineer, has told Xinhua. We've never done such a thing before.
Chinese President Hu Jintao watched the launch from the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center. The country's premier Wen Jiabao and He Guoqiang, also members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, went to the launch center to watch the rocket blast off, accoridng to Xinhua.
China is clearly becoming a global power and its investments in areas like technology and exploration reflect this, Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, told Xinhua in an e-mail. It is a natural result of the growth in political and economic power and is to be expected.
The unmanned spacecraft was first scheduled to lift off into low Earth orbit between Tuesday and Friday, but that it didn't because of poor weather at the launch center. The Tiangong-1 was also met with delays after a satellite launching failure in August when a Long March 2C rocket malfunctioned and was unsuccessful in sending the Shijian XI-04 satellite into orbit.
Chinese officials took the initiative to reschedule the launch of its first experimental space station because of safety concerns, Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of the country's manned space program, told Xinhua.
You can also watch an animation of the launch below.