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Successful Launch of China’s Space Station Lab Module

July 24, 2022 (EIRNS)—Virtually all major news agencies have reported on China’s successful launch into orbit this afternoon of the space station lab module Wentian, the largest spacecraft ever developed by the country.

CGTN reported that the Long March-5B Y3 rocket, carrying Wentian (which means “Quest for the Heavens”), blasted off at 2:22 p.m. Beijing Time from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China’s Hainan Province. Wentian is about 13.8 feet (4.2 meters) wide by about 59 feet (17.9 meters) long. It has a mass of about 22 metric tons and is powered by two massive deployable solar arrays.

“About eight minutes later, the lab module separated from the carrier rocket and entered its preset orbit. The China Manned Space Engineering Office declared the launch mission a complete success.

“In the next few hours, the Wentian will autonomously rendezvous and dock with the Tianhe core module in orbit, forming the second part of China’s three-module space station. The Shenzhou-14 crew currently in the core module will then enter the Wentian cabin. They will become the first Chinese astronauts to witness the docking of two large space station modules in orbit.”

Space Flight Insider reported,

“On the outside of the module are locations for a multitude of external payloads and experiments. It also has a 17-foot (5-meter) long robotic arm, which is about half the size of the main robotic arm on the core module.

“Inside there are locations for science racks as well as additional sleeping quarters for use during direct crew handovers. The module also has hardware for additional navigation, propulsion and orientation control, which is expected to be used as a backup to those of the core module.

“Additionally, Wentian has an airlock near the rear of the module, which is expected to be used for future spacewalks.

“Later this year, another module is expected to be launched to Tiangong in October 2022. Similar in shape and size, the Mengtian module is slated to be placed in space by a Long March 5B. Just like Wentian, it’ll dock initially with the forward port of the Tianhe module before an indexing arm will move it to the port side of the station.

“When Mengtian is attached to the Chinese space station, it’ll complete the outpost’s construction. The three modules will form a ‘T’ shape.

“In December 2022, another crew of three Chinese astronauts are slated to launch to Tiangong aboard Shenzhou-15. They are expected to replace the Shenzhou-14 crew via a direct handover.”

The China Academy of Sciences had an article in April 2022, which covered some of the features of the mission.

“Yang Hong, the chief designer of the space station system of the China Manned Space Program at the China Academy of Space Technology, said that both modules are equipped with experiment cabinets and an installation platform for extravehicular payloads. In the two lab modules, astronauts will be able to research space science, space materials, space medicine and space exploration.”

It noted that the intention of the space program, and particularly the space station, is to encourage the transfer of space technology to civilian uses to improve the lives of the people, such as using crystalized protein in space to develop new drugs that fight osteoporosis and muscle atrophy.

In an Opinion piece in China Daily by Wang Yanan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge, Wang noted that:

“Indeed, China has made remarkable strides in the aerospace industry in the past decades, from the launch of its first artificial satellite in 1970 to the launch of the Shenzhou-14 in 2022. Now, it is building the Tiangong space station, and has promised, most remarkably, to provide all countries with space research and exploration opportunities under the UN cooperation framework. In fact, nine science projects designed by 17 countries will be among the first scientific experiments in the Chinese space station.

“Having suffered invasions and occupations by colonial powers in the past, China understands the predicament of many developing countries that have been victims of Western colonialism. Space research and exploration, especially the technologies and applied sciences which it may result in, may present greater development opportunities for developing countries.”

Wang concluded,

“China believes in the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind and adheres to the principle of win-win cooperation, which is being welcomed by more and more people across the world. And in space, China will always steadfastly uphold peace, and promote cooperation and mutual benefit.”

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