China’s space station module ready to receive first cargo ship visit


China’s Tianhe space station module has passed on-orbit tests and is ready to receive its first visitor, according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO).

Tianhe launched on a Long March 5B on April 28 at 11:23 p.m. EDT (0323 GMT on April 29)and has since carried out a range of tests to prove it is capable of hosting astronauts. 

CMSEO said tests of functions needed for rendezvous and docking, life support and other platforms have been completed. A 33-feet-long (10 meters) robotic arm which will be used to help add new modules to the station has also been passed ready for work.

Video: Chinese cargo spacecraft for new space station prepped for launch
Related: China to launch Tianzhou 2 cargo ship to Tianhe station module

Images from China’s Tianhe space station core module showing the Earth, solar arrays, and the interior. Credit: CMSA 18, 2021

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China is now preparing to launch the first visitor to Tianhe, with the Tianzhou 2 cargo spacecraft now expected to launch from Wenchang, south China on Saturday (May 29), shortly after 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 May 29 GMT; 8:30 p.m. May 29 local time).

The Tianzhou 2 spacecraft was first expected to launch on May 19 to send cargo and propellant to Tianhe. The launch has been delayed however due to “technical reasons,” CMSEO said in a statement.

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An artist’s rendering of China’s space station and its 33-feet (10 metres) long robotic arm. (Image credit: CASC)

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The China Academy of Space Technology team with the Tianhe robotic arm. (Image credit: CASC)

Tianhe is the core module for a “T”-shaped space station that China aims to complete by the end of 2022. China has planned 10 more launches to complete the orbital outpost, starting with Tianzhou 2. 

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