China Daily (Hong Kong)
Lift rocket prepares to launch core capsule
The Long March 5B heavy-lift carrier rocket tasked with launching the core capsule of China’s space station arrived at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province on Monday, the China Manned Space Agency said.
The rocket will now be assembled and then undergo ground tests with the capsule at the coastal launch complex, the agency said in a brief statement, without elaborating.
According to information previously published by the agency, the mission is scheduled to take place in coming months.
The capsule, named Tianhe, or Harmony of Heavens, will be 16.6 meters long and have a diameter of 4.2 meters. It will be central to the space station’s operations, given that astronauts will live there and control the entire station from inside.
The capsule will have three parts — a life-support and control section, a resources section, and a connecting section.
China’s most sophisticated space endeavor, the multimodule space station, named Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace, will have three main components — a core capsule attached to two space laboratories — with a combined weight of more than 90 metric tons.
The station is expected to become fully operational next year and is set to operate for about 15 years, program planners have said.
After the core capsule is launched, astronauts on the Shenzhou XII and XIII missions and two cargo ships will be launched within a few months to prepare the module for docking with other parts of the station.
Tiangong’s two space labs will then be launched in separate Long March 5B missions, and two more manned missions and two robotic cargo flights will be made to continue construction of the station.