BEIJING (AP) — China has recommitted itself to completing its orbiting space station by the end of the year and says it is planning more than 40 launches for 2022, putting it roughly level with the United States.

Launches would include those of two Shenzhou crewed missions, two Tianzhou cargo spacecraft and the station’s additional two modules, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday, citing a recent announcement by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation known as CASC.

Named Mengtian and Wentian, the science modules will join the Tianhe core module that is currently home to a three-person crew.

The launch schedule shows how China’s traditionally cautious program is increasing the cadence of its missions as it seeks to take a leading role in space exploration.

The U.S. expects around the same number of launches this year, after the pace slowed in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Supply chains for crucial items

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