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The cargo train Thien Chau 4 flies to Thien Cung station

China successfully launched a new cargo mission to the space station module in orbit to prepare for the new crew to arrive in June.

The cargo train Thien Chau 4 flies to Thien Cung station

The Thien Chau 4 ship leaves the launch pad. Video: Xinhua

The Long March 7 rocket carrying the Tianzhou 4 unmanned spacecraft took off from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in the southern Chinese province of Hainan at 1:56 a.m. on May 10, Hanoi time. The cargo ship will dock with Tianhe, the core module of the Tiangong station, about 6.5 hours after launch. The 10.6-meter-long Tianzhou 4 is carrying thousands of pounds of supplies for the upcoming Shenzhou 14 manned mission along with propellant and scientific experimental equipment. The Shenzhou 14 spacecraft carrying three astronauts will launch to the 16.6-meter-long Tianhe module in June on a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert.

Launched in April 2021, the Tianhe module received the Tianzhou 2 and Tianzhou 3 cargo ships with the Shenzhou 12 and Shenzhou 13 crew. The trio of astronauts on the Shenzhou 13 mission have returned returned to Earth in April of this year after setting a record six months in space.

Tianzhou 4 is the sixth of 11 missions to complete the Chinese space station. The station’s 2nd and 3rd modules, named Wentian and Mong Thien, will combine with the Thien Ha module later this year during the Than Chau 14 mission to form a T-shaped complex in orbit. This will make Shenzhou 14 one of the most important missions in China’s spaceflight history. The Shenzhou 14 crew will spend 6 months on the space station.

Astronauts on the Shenzhou 14 and Shenzhou 15 missions will stay together on the Tianhe module for a short time later this year. The Shenzhou 14 spacecraft and rocket has been ready to fly since October last year in case of an emergency on the space station.

Next year, China also plans to launch a telescope similar to Hubble, which can be docked with the space station for repair and maintenance. Thien Cung Station will weigh 20% of the International Space Station. Once completed, the station will open its doors to foreign astronauts and even tourists later this decade.

An Khang (According to Space)

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