The rocket that will carry China’s next module of space station has landed at the launch facility

As China prepares to launch its second module of the space station into orbit, a Long March 5B rocket has landed at Wenchang spaceport. Wenchang received the components for the 3rd Long March 5B heavy-lift rocket. The CMSEO (China Manned Space Engineering Office) revealed on May 29 that (Chinese).

The launcher components were built and verified in Tianjin, north China, before being carried to Wenchang, on the coast of Hainan’s south island province, on specially constructed cargo ships. The launch vehicle is being assembled and tested. Unofficially, the finished 849-metric-ton, 53.7-meter-long Long March 5B, that includes a cryogenic core stage, 4 liquid boosters, as well as an extended payload fairing, is scheduled to deploy on July 23.

The mission’s goal is to launch the Wentian experiment module that weighs nearly 22-ton, into orbit, where it will join Tianhe, the Tiangong space station’s main module, which deployed in April of 2021. The 17.9-meter-long Wentian (“Quest for the Heavens”) module will connect with Tianhe’s forward port, which is presently in a 387 x 386-kilometer orbit with a 41.5-degree inclined orbit.

Three Shenzhou-14 astronauts will be inside Tianhe for the landing of Wentian and will work with ground control to transfer this novel module to the radial docking port utilizing a huge robotic arm, which is scheduled to launch from Jiuquan about 10.40 p.m. Eastern on Monday, June 5th.

Wentian would be number two of the 3 modules for the Tiangong space station facility, that is T-shaped, if it is successful, with the third, Mengtian, set to launch in October. When China approved Project 921 to build human spaceflight capabilities in 1992, the Chinese space station facility was originally conceived. Due to problems with the construction and effectiveness of the Long March 5B, the project has been delayed, but it might be extended to 6 modules and most tourist and commercial missions.

Wentian has a new airlock for (EVA) extravehicular activities, which is a small robotic arm that can communicate with Tianhe’s larger arm, and more living rooms for crew handovers. The Shenzhou-14 crew is going to greet Shenzhou-15, that is planned to launch in December, for the first personnel handover. After that, Tiangong will house 6 astronauts for a few days.

Once operational, the new airlock cabin at Wentian will serve as the primary exit/entry point for EVAs (extravehicular activities). Wentian will also have 30-meter-long solar arrays, which will increase the amount of power accessible to Tiangong.

The fate of the Long March 5B first stage, that is nearly 30-meter-long and 21-metric-ton will be another important component of the mission. The core stage also serves as the upper stage, achieving orbital velocity rather than landing into a preset spot on the ballistic trajectory, as is typical of the first stages.

The first two sections of the Long March 5B made uncontrollable reentries, drawing extensive public notice. In 2023 and 2022, two additional Long March 5B flights are planned to deploy the Xuntian co-orbiting space telescope and the Mengtian module, respectively.

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