Wentian module docks: China's space station nears completion
China successfully docked a second module to its under-construction space station, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) said Monday, as the country near completing its orbital outpost by the end of this year.
China launched its Wentian space lab on Monday at 2:22 AM ET and docked successfully at the Tiangong space station about 13 hours later at 3:13 PM ET.
The 23-ton lab module was carried by a Long March 5B rocket and was launched at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site.
The whole operation is intended to assist with completing the construction of the Tiangong space station, which is specifically designed for scientific and biological experiments to be carried out, as well as testing new technologies.
Three Chinese taikonauts who were living in the station were waiting for the module to dock.
The beautiful moment when #China's #Wentian lab module docks with the #ChinaSpaceStation’s Tianhe core module. This is the first time the two 20-ton level spacecraft have completed a docking maneuver in orbit. #AmazingChina pic.twitter.com/t7uth0uB3L— libijian李碧建 (@libijian2) July 25, 2022
As soon as the module docked the station, taikonauts Cai Xuzhe, Chen Dong, and Liu Yang were seen entering the module dressed in blue jumpsuits and were seen floating before facing the camera and saluting.
Once the construction of the station is fully completed, it is expected to remain in low orbit 400-450 kilometers (250-280 miles) above Earth for at least 10 years.
When completed, the station is expected to have a mass of 90 tonnes, around a quarter of the International Space Station -- from which China has been excluded by the US.
Since 2016, China's space industry has made rapid and innovative progress, manifested by a steady improvement in space infrastructure, the completion and operation of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, the completion of the high-resolution earth observation system, steady improvement of the serviceability of satellite communications and broadcasting, the conclusion of the last step of the three-step lunar exploration program ("orbit, land, and return"), the first stages in building the space station, and a smooth interplanetary voyage and landing beyond the earth-moon system by Tianwen-1, followed by the exploration of Mars. These achievements have attracted worldwide attention.
Over the coming years, China plans to launch a space telescope with a field of view 350 times that of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Over the next four years, it aims to achieve a very long list of projects and programs for its space program, which are shown on the government's website.