Tianzhou-1 was launched into space on Thursday from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern Hainan Province.
Tianzhou-1 is 10.6 meters in length and 3.35 meters in diameter at its widest point. Its maximum takeoff weight is 13.5 tonnes and can carry a payload of up 6.5 tonnes.
Chinese aerospace scientists say Tianzhou-1 is the largest cargo vessels built to date. Tianzhou-1 will dock with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab, provide fuel and other supplies, and conduct space experiments.
Unloading the supplies is complicated and involves more than two dozen procedures and takes several days. Tianzhou-1 is larger and heavier than Tiangong-2, which is 10.4 meters long and has a maximum diameter of 3.35 meters, and weighs 8.6 tonnes.
One of chief designers of the space craft, Bai Mingsheng, said Tianzhou-1 will dock with Tiangong-2 three times, using different procedures to test the ability of the cargo ship to dock with the space station from different directions.
The successful launch marks a crucial point in Beijing's step-by-step plan to build a permanent manned space station by approximately 2022.
The cargo ship is to deliver basic supplies and necessities, including fuel, water, food and equipment, needed to maintain the future space station. The space station is expected to orbit Earth for at least 10 years before burning out.
The United States has acknowledged China's increasing space advancements. Washington claims Beijing pursues such activities to prevent other nations from using space-based military assets. China says it has only peaceful ambitions in space.