2nd space lab on its way to key mis­sion

Tian­gong II’s dozens of ex­per­i­ments will in­clude many not pos­si­ble on Earth

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO LEI in Ji­uquan, Gansu and CAO YIN in Beijing

China launched its sec­ond space lab­o­ra­tory, the Tian­gong II, on Thurs­day night, which space of­fi­cials said will be­come the coun­try’s largest sci­en­tific plat­form in space.

The space lab, the na­tion’s first space­craft with a mod­u­lar de­sign, was lifted off atop a Long March 2F car­rier rocket from the Ji­uquan Satel­lite Launch Cen­ter in North­west China’s Gobi Desert at 10:04 pm.

The lab will un­dergo prepa­ra­tions in space for about one month be­fore the Shen­zhou XI manned space­craft, in a flight sched­uled for mid-Oc­to­ber, will take two as­tro­nauts to the lab to en­ter it. The as­tro­nauts will stay in­side the lab for 30 days.

The lab will be mon­i­tored and con­trolled mainly by the Beijing Aerospace Com­mand and Control Cen­ter.

Its pre­de­ces­sor, Tian­gong I, was launched in Septem­ber 2011 and was mainly used to test tech­nolo­gies in­volved in space ren­dezvous and dock­ing.

By com­par­i­son, the Tian­gong II will con­duct more than 40 sci­en­tific and tech­no­log­i­cal ex­per­i­ments to­gether

with the Shen­zhou XI. That is many more than those car­ried out by the Tian­gong I and three pre­vi­ous Shen­zhou space­craft, ac­cord­ing to Wu Ping, deputy di­rec­tor of the China Manned Space Agency.

“Strictly speak­ing, Tian­gong II is China’s first gen­uine space lab­o­ra­tory. We aim to take ad­van­tage of the lab’s strong ca­pa­bil­ity, the mi­cro­grav­ity and ra­di­a­tion in space as well as the as­tro­nauts’ long stay to con­duct sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments and tech­no­log­i­cal tests in many fields,” she said.

Zhu Zong peng, chief de­signer of Tian­gong II at the China Acad­emy of Space Tech­nol­ogy, said mi­cro­grav­ity, strong ra­di­a­tion and ex­treme tem­per­a­tures in space can fa­cil­i­tate re­search on life sci­ence, physics and cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies, so Chi­nese sci­en­tists will­make full use of the Tian­gong II mis­sion to do ex­per­i­ments that are not pos­si­ble on Earth.

Liao Jian­lin, a se­nior en­gi­neer at the acad­emy who took part in Tian­gong II’s de­vel­op­ment, said that Tian­gong II has de­vices to test in-or­bit re­pair tech­nolo­gies for China’s fu­ture manned space sta­tion, which is planned to be built around 2022.

More­over, each sys­tem on the space lab uses a mod­u­lar de­sign, which means they can be rapidly changed or re­paired in case of mal­func­tion, he said. This is the first time that a Chi­nese space­craft has adopted mod­u­lar de­sign, Liao added.

The coun­try is ex­pected to have the only space sta­tion af­ter the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion is re­tired in 2024.

JU ZHENHUA / XIN­HUA

A Long March 2F rocket car­ry­ing the Tian­gong II space lab blasts off at the Ji­uquan Satel­lite Launch Cen­ter in North­west China on Thurs­day night.

Source: China Aerospace Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Corp

CHINA DAILY

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