Beijing, Sep 21 (EFE).- China’s Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft has successfully docked at the central module of the space station that the country is finalizing to be operational next year.
Tianzhou-3 completed its docking at the Tianhe core module at 10.08 pm Beijing time (14:08 GMT) on Monday, China Manned Space Agency reported late that night.
The spacecraft launched at 3.10 pm local time on Monday from the Wenchang space base on the southern island of Hainan, propelled by a Long March-7 Y4 rocket.
“After 597 seconds, Tianzhou-3 separated from the rocket and entered its designated orbit. At 3:22 p.m., the solar panels of Tianzhou-3 unfolded and began working properly,” the state-run Xinhua news agency said.
Both Tianzhou-2, the cargo ship launched months ago, and Tianzhou-3 are now docked to the Tianhe core module of the space station.
“Tianzhou-3 carries nearly 6 tonnes of goods and materials, including living supplies for the astronauts, one extravehicular space suit for back-up, supplies for extravehicular activities, space station platform materials, payloads and propellants,” Xinhua said.
“The cargo can ensure sufficient food and drinking water for three astronauts to remain in orbit for six months.”
The operation is in preparation for the upcoming launch of the Shenzhou-13 manned mission, which will carry three astronauts who are scheduled to remain at the space station for half a year.
It is one more step in the ambitious space program of the Asian country, which on Sep. 17 saw the return to Earth of three ‘taikonauts’ (as cosmonauts are called in China) from the previous mission, Shenzhou-12, after of a 90-day period of work on the space station.
Xinhua indicated that the space station will orbit the Earth at an altitude of between 340 and 450 kilometers, and is designed to last about 10 years, although experts cited by the source trust that with proper maintenance it can last more than 15 years. EFE