China successfully launches new manned spacecraft to space station
Beijing, June 5 (EFE).- Chinese spacecraft Shenzhou-14 successfully took off Sunday at 10:44 a.m. (2:44 GMT) with three astronauts on board, aiming to reach and finish construction on the Tiangong space station.
The spacecraft took off at the scheduled time from the Jiuqian satellite launch center in the northwest of the country via the Long March-2F carrier rocket, according to images broadcast live on state television CGTN.
Once it enters orbit, the ship will have to dock with the 18-meter-long Tianhe central module and the Tianzhou-3 and Tianzhou-4 supply ships so astronauts can finish building the Tiangong station, which the country expects to have ready by the end of this year.
Those responsible for the space mission announced moments after liftoff and the solar panels were successfully deployed that the launch had been a “complete success.”
The astronauts aboard the Shenzhou-14, Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe, will remain in orbit for six months to finish the construction of the Tiangong space station, assembling its basic structure of three modules, the Tianhe central and the Wentian laboratories and Mengtian.
In April, its predecessor, the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft, landed in the Gobi desert after completing its operations in the Tiangong, where three astronauts spent 183 days in the longest manned mission carried out by China until then.
That was also the second manned mission that China sent to its space station.
On the Shenzhou-13 mission, the astronauts completed various tasks to advance the preparation of the Chinese space station, including two spacewalks, more than 20 scientific experiments and data collection.
The Shenzhou-14 and Shenzhou-15 astronauts are expected to finally finish construction work on Tiangong, which should be completed by the end of 2022, according to original plans.
The Shenzhou-15 crew is expected to perform extravehicular activities in addition to assembling, testing and debugging payloads inside the modules on the upcoming mission.
The Tiangong space station, whose name means “Heavenly Palace” in Mandarin, will weigh about 70 tons and is expected to operate for about 15 years orbiting about 400 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. EFE