China to launch three-person mission to build space station
China will launch three astronauts on a spacecraft on Sunday on a six-month mission to complete the construction of the country’s space station currently orbiting Earth, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) announced on Saturday.
Astronauts Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuze will travel on the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft that will dock with the Tiangong space station currently under construction.
Shenzhou-14 will be launched on Sunday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu, sending three astronauts to its space station.
Lin Ziqiang, deputy director of CMSA, said the mission will make the space station into a national space laboratory.
Lin said in a press conference that the Shenzhou-14 crew would work closely with the ground team to complete the rendezvous, docking and transposition of the two lab modules with the core module.
They will first enter the two lab modules and help make the environment suitable for their living, adding that they will open and install a dozen scientific experiment cabinets in the two modules, Lin told media in Jiuquan.
This is the second set of six astronauts that China will send to build its own space station.
Earlier, a three-member Chinese astronaut crew, including a woman, returned to Earth in April after spending a record six months building critical parts of the space station, which were expected to be ready by this year.
According to CMSA, they had completed verification of key technologies for its space station.
Once ready, China will be the only country to have a space station. Russia’s International Space Station (ISS) is a collaborative project of several countries.
The China Space Station, (CSS) is also expected to be a competitor to the Russian-built ISS.
Observers say that CSS could become the only space station to remain in orbit in the coming years after the ISS is retired.
In February, China unveiled an ambitious plan for its growing space industry that included more than 50 space launches and six manned space flights to complete construction of its space station.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) said that China will conduct more than 50 space launches in 2022, sending more than 140 spacecraft into space.
Chen who will be commander of the new mission participated in the Shenzhou-11 crewed spaceflight mission, Liu was part of the Shenzhou-9 mission and Cai is a newcomer to space, Lin Ziqiang, deputy director of CMSA, said at the press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. .
Lin said all three would be in the classroom for six months.
The Shenzhou-14 mission will complete the construction of the Tiangong space station, which will have a basic three-module structure consisting of core modules Tianhe and lab modules Wentian and Mengtian.
During their stay in orbit, the Shenzhou-14 crew will see two laboratory modules, the Tianzhou-5 cargo craft and the Shenzhou-15 crewed spacecraft dock with the core module Tianhe.
Lin said they would move into orbit with the Shenzhou-15 crew and return to the Dongfeng landing site in northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in December.
China began construction of its three-module space station in April 2021 with the launch of Tianhe – the first and largest of the station’s three modules.