China Launches Cargo Ship Towards Central Module of Space Station Tiangong-3

After the recent return of the trio of taikonauts from the Shenzhou-2 mission, who passed 90 days in the central module of the new Chinese space station, the country has already launched a new mission there. This Monday (15), China launched a Tianzhou-3 cargo ship bound for the Tianhe module, the core component of your new Tiangong-3 station. The launch took place with a Long March 7 rocket, which left the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center at 13h , at local time.

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According to information from people involved in the mission, the Tianzhou-3 cargo ship is carrying supplies and equipment to prepare the module for the crew of the Shenzhou-3 mission, due to arrive there in October. They are expected to spend six months aboard the station, which will be the longest period Chinese astronauts have ever spent in space during a single mission.

The Tianhe module was the first component of the new Tiangong-3 station (Image: Reproduction/CMSA)

According to the person in charge of building the spacecraft, Tianzhou-3 carries a variety of items on board, such as drinking water, consumable gases for spacewalks, and payloads from scientific experiments. “Since the Tianzhou-3 mission will sustain the taikonauts’ six-month stay in space, the Tianzhou-3 will have a higher payload density than the Tianzhou-2,” explained Yang Sheng, chief designer of the Tianzhou-3 spacecraft system.

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Thus, Tianzhou-3 carries 15% more charges than the previous mission, and one of the most expensive items on board is a space suit that weighs 90 kg, designed especially for spacewalks. Previously, Tianzhou-2 carried two sets of spacewalking suits, each weighing about 90 kg. The ship also carries parts necessary for the replacement of the urine treatment system, to ensure proper functioning for the Shenzhou-3 crew.

Cui Guangzhi, system project leader, explained that 1024 liters of urine were processed in more than 100 liters of water, used to produce oxygen and to clean the station during the Shenzhou crew mission-13. “The Shenzhou crew 13 will install these parts when they reach the central module,” he explained. The expectation is that the ship will reach the module within eight hours of takeoff, and perform a quick and autonomous docking.

The Tianhe module is the heart of the new Tiangong-3 station, which will receive two more modules and should be completed next year. As it will be necessary 10 releases to finish the assembly of the station, the Tianzhou-3 mission will represent the 4th release. As China progresses in setting up its new station, you can take a virtual tour of the facility.

Source: Space.com, Global Times

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