China says it plans to finish space station by end of year, make more than 40 launches

China will complete its orbital space station by the end of 2022 and will launch up to 40 space flights this year in a sign of the nation's ongoing effort to lead exploration of the cosmos.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) announced the anticipated completion of its space station and more crewed space missions and cargo flights this year, as well as the launch of the Space Launch System, a 332-foot rocket designed to reach the moon, according to The Associated Press, citing Chinese state-run news media.

The Tiangong space station, first launched last April, is China's rival to the International Space Station (ISS), which the U.S. had locked its adversary out of. Its completion this year will mark a major milestone for China's military-run space programs.

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The Chinese space station will weigh about 66 tons after it's fully built out, significantly lighter than the ISS at 455 tons.

China has said it looks forward to inviting international astronauts to its space station. In October, three Chinese astronauts with the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft docked at the station, becoming the second crew to move in.

In 2003, China became the third country, after the U.S. and Russia, to put an astronaut into space. Since that historic marker, China has increased its presence in space, including sending a lander and rover to Mars last year