Beijing, Oct 26 (EFE).- China’s Shenzhou-17 spacecraft lifted off aboard a Long March 2F rocket on Thursday carrying three astronauts to the Chinese Tiangong space station.
The launch was carried out from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert at 11:14 am.
The crew of the country’s sixth manned mission to the Chinese space station is led by veteran astronaut, Tang Hongbo, and also includes newcomers, Tang Shengjie and Jiang Xinlin.
The three taikonauts – as Chinese cosmonauts are known – will be the second group of crew members of the Tiangong during what will be its application and development phase, during which a new extension module is scheduled to be added to the T-structure of the space station to give it a “cross” shape.
The Shenzhou-17 is expected to take between six and seven hours to reach the space station, the China Manned Space Agency reported.
The Shenzhou-17 will be the eighth spacecraft to visit the Tiangong and its crew will replace the members of the Shenzhou-16 mission.
Tiangong, whose name means Heavenly Palace in Mandarin, will weigh about 70 tons and is expected to operate for about 10 years orbiting about 400 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.
By 2024, it could become the world’s only space station if the International Space Station, a United States-led initiative to which China is barred due to military ties to its space program, is withdrawn that year as planned.
In recent years, the Chinese space program has achieved successes such as landing the Chang’e 4 probe on the hidden side of the Moon – the first time it has been achieved – and reaching Mars for the first time, becoming the third country to do so after the US and the former Soviet Union. EFE