BEIJING- China expects to establish its first space station by around 2022, building upon the experience of an experimental module already in orbit, state media said on Wednesday.
China's leaders have set a priority on advancing its space programme, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power.
In China's manned space mission last year, three astronauts spent 15 days in orbit and docked with an experimental space laboratory, the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 1.
Yang Liwei, deputy head of China's Manned Space Agency and also the country's first man in space, said the follow-up Tiangong 2 was likely to be launched in about 2016.
Then, in around 2018, the core of the space station would be launched with completion set for four years later, the official Xinhua news agency cited Yang as saying.
China has previously said a working space station would be ready by around 2020.
The country insists that its space programme is for peaceful purposes.
The US Defence Department has highlighted China's increasing space capabilities, however, saying China was pursuing activities aimed at preventing its adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis.
Despite considerable advances, China's space programme still lags those of the United States and Russia.
China must still master launching cargo and fuel via space freighters and recycling air and water for extended manned missions, state media have said.