China expands orbital outpost — Analysis

Laboratory module Wentian successfully docked with the Tiangong space station, according to China’s space agency

China’s orbital space station Tiangong has been expanded with its first two planned laboratory modules. This is a significant milestone in China’s domestic space program, which was banned from the International Space Station.

Wentian is the name of the laboratory module.“Quest for the Heavens”According to Xinhua, ). successfully docked at the Tianhe core module’s front port at 3:13am Beijing Time Monday morning, roughly 13 hours after it launched on Sunday.

Three Chinese astronauts currently on orbit aboard China’s Tiangong are currently the crew of three. “Heavenly palace”)The three men, who oversaw docking and arrival, have not been allowed to access the new module. The trio – commander Chen Dong and Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe – are part of a lengthy six-month Shenzhou-14 mission, during which the Chinese space station is set to receive another module and become fully operational.

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Around 18 meters in length, the 23-tonne Wentian measures 4.2 metres in diameter. Although the Wentian was designed to be a scientific platform, it also has additional sleeping spaces for crew members, as well as extra facilities for biotechnology, ecology and gravity research. According to CGTN an additional robotic arm was added by the spacecraft. This is smaller than the one on Tiangong and designed for precise, delicate operations.

The station’s first core module was brought into orbit last April, while the third named Mengtian (“Dreaming of Heavens”() are awaiting launch in Oct 2022. Tiangong, now officially operational at about 66 ton, will have two more segments. That’s roughly half of what the Soviet Mir, the largest multi-modular station ever developed and maintained by any single nation, weighs. 

If everything goes according to plan, the mission of Tiangong will last for more than 10 years. China does not rule out that it might live beyond ten years, and the original configuration with three modules could expand to six.

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China is not a member of the International Space Station (ISS) program, because US laws prohibit NASA from engaging in direct collaboration with the Beijing government or any China-affiliated organizations over the fears of spying and technology theft by the country’s military, despite Beijing’s assurances that it has purely peaceful purposes.

Beijing on the other side has invited international astronauts to take part in Tiangong’s space station mission. The crew will also be conducting research, as Wang Wenbin (Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson) stated in April that China is “ready to cooperate with all nations.”



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