Tian­gong II space lab ready for launch

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO LEI in Ji­uquan, Gansu zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China will launch the Tian­gong II space lab­o­ra­tory on Thurs­day night, paving the way for a Chi­nese manned space sta­tion, Deputy Di­rec­tor Wu Ping of the China Manned Space Agency said on Wed­nes­day.

Wu, also spokes­woman for the agency, told re­porters at a news con­fer­ence in the Ji­uquan Satel­lite Launch Cen­ter that a Long March 2F car­rier rocket was be­ing fu­eled and would lift the Tian­gong II from the Ji­uquan cen­ter on 10:04 pm Thurs­day.

“By now, all of the mis­sion’s el­e­ments have com­pleted their prepa­ra­tions and re­hearsals,” she said.

“The Tian­gong II mis­sion will lay a solid foun­da­tion and gather valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence for the build­ing and op­er­a­tion of our fu­ture manned space sta­tion,” she said.

Tian­gong II, China’s sec­ond space lab, has two cab­ins with dif­fer­ent func­tions — the ex­per­i­ment cabin will be her­met­i­cally sealed and will act as the as­tro­nauts’ liv­ing quar­ters, and the re­source cabin will con­tain so­lar pan­els, stor­age bat­ter­ies, pro­pel­lant and en­gines.

The space lab is 10.4 me­ters high, 3.35 me­ters in di­am­e­ter and weighs 8.6 met­ric tons. It is de­signed to work two years in the space, Wu said.

China launched its first space lab, Tian­gong I, in Septem­ber 2011. De­spite its des­ig­nated life span of two years, it was in ser­vice for four and a half. It made six au­to­matic and as­tro­naut­con­trolled doc kings with China’s Shen­zhou VIII, Shen­zhou IX and Shen­zhou X space­craft.

Dur­ing its mis­sion, Tian­gong II will dock with the Shen­zhou XI manned space­craft and Tianzhou 1 cargo space­ship.

The space lab’s main tasks will be to ac­com­mo­date as­tro­nauts’ medium length stay in it and test life-sup­port tech­nolo­gies, and it will be used to test in-or­bit re­fu­el­ing and re­pair plans, con­duct ex­per­i­ments in space medicine and space sci­ences, and ex­am­ine tech­nolo­gies for the

fu­ture manned space sta­tion, Wu said.

In ad­di­tion, it will carry 14 pieces of equip­ment for sci­en­tific re­search and ex­per­i­ments in space, she added.

Af­ter en­ter­ing an ini­tial or­bit at about 380 kilo­me­ters above Earth, the space lab will per­form some of its ex­per­i­ments and also test its equip­ment.

It will then ma­neu­ver to a ren­dezvous or­bit at an al­ti­tude of 393 km to dock with the Shen­zhou XI manned space­craft, which will be launched in mid-Oc­to­ber from the Ji­uquan cen­ter. The two male Chi­nese as­tro­nauts will stay in the space lab for 30 days.

The two are sched­uled to make Chi­nese as­tro­nauts’ long­est stay in space to date: 33 days. Chi­nese as­tro­nauts’ cur­rent long­est space jour­ney was a 15-day mis­sion in June 2013 in­volv­ing Shen­zhou X and Tian­gong I.

Tian­gong II will also take part in in­ter­na­tional mis­sions.

Wu said the space lab will carry the world’s first high­sen­si­tive gamma-ray burst de­tec­tor, which was code­vel­oped by en­gi­neers from China and Euro­pean Space Agency.

It will also ex­e­cute an in-or­bit study of the ef­fects of weight­less­ness on car­dio­vas-

The Tian­gong II mis­sion will lay a solid foun­da­tion and gather valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence for the build­ing and op­er­a­tion of our fu­ture manned space sta­tion. Wu Ping, deputy di­rec­tor of China Manned Space Agency

cu­lar func­tions, a joint ef­fort by Chi­nese and French sci­en­tists, she added.

Space ex­perts and of­fi­cials from sev­eral na­tions in­clud­ing Ger­many, Italy and Pak­istan, as well as the Euro­pean Space Agency will be in the Ji­uquan cen­ter to wit­ness the launch.

China’s manned space pro­gram in­tends to put a per­ma­nent manned space sta­tion into ser­vice. It will con­sist of a core mo­d­ule at­tached to two 20-ton labs, around the year 2022, ac­cord­ing to the manned space agency.

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