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Stunning Photos Released of the Shenzhou-11 Docked to the Tiangon-2 Module

Oct. 24, 2016 (EIRNS)—China’s space program released stunning photographs, today, of the Shenzhou-11 manned capsule docked to the Tiangong-2 orbital lab, taken by a very small hi-tech companion satellite, which had been released into orbit yesterday from the Tiangong-2 module. The Banxing-2 satellite is flying near the Tiangong-2, which is attached to the Shenzhou-11, and from a distance of only about 30 yards, the small satellite, about the size of a printer, sent back its first 300 photos, CCTV reported.

Banxing-2 has a high-resolution camera, which will be monitoring the spacecraft, and also keeping an eye out for any threatening orbital debris. Its infrared camera will monitor the health of the space lab, Chen Hongyu, chief engineer of the satellite program explained.

"Like a private nurse for Tiangong-2 and Shenzhou-11, the companion satellite monitors their condition all the time, which is helpful in detecting failures." The small satellite is able to control and change its orbit, process tasks, and transmit data at high speed to mission control, powering itself with three solar panels. Its predecessor accompanied the Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008. The new model is smaller, with a higher capacity.

In a similar configuration, when the Space Shuttle was docked to the Russian Mir space station in the late 1990s, when a Soyuz manned craft left the station to return to Earth, the crew could look back at the orbital complex, and took stunning photographs of the Shuttle orbiter and the Mir.

The mission is going according to plan. The Chinese, confident of success, have already released a series of new postage stamps, only a few days into the mission, with portraits of the two-man crew. Another stamp features the mission patch, and another, an image of the two spacecraft docked together.

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