China is preparing to launch three astronauts on a mission to visit the first module of the country’s new space station.
The Shenzhou 12 spacecraft and the Long March 2F rocket for launch were transported by rail to the Juquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, the China Manned Space Technology Administration reported on April 15. The spacecraft and launcher are currently undergoing final assembly and testing. place of launch, reports CMSEO.
The Shenzhou 12 mission will send three taikonauts, as the Chinese astronauts are called, into low earth orbit. Their spacecraft in Shenzhou will meet and dock with the Tianhe Space Station module, which is expected to launch on Wednesday (April 28), after approximately 11:20 pm ET (03:20 am, April 29 GMT).
Connected: With the launch of the first space station this spring, Chinese astronauts are preparing to fly.
China did not reveal many details of the mission. However, the delivery of the rocket and spacecraft and the upcoming launch of the Tianhe module indicate that the crewed mission could be ready to fly in June.
Prior to the launch of the crew, the Tianzhou robotic cargo spacecraft will visit Tianhe to deliver materials and fuel to the module. The Tianzhou 2 and its Long March 7 rocket have just arrived in Wenchang in southern China to prepare for a May launch.
Chinese officials have yet to disclose the identities of the Shenzhou 12’s crew members, and China had previously tightly guarded such information prior to launch. However, Chinese astronauts are undergoing intensive training to fly to space stations.
It is also unclear how long the Shenzhou 12 mission will last. This mission is the first phase of the construction of the China Space Station, and astronauts can spend months in orbital test systems and prepare for the arrival of the next modules and the Tianzhou spacecraft.
China is planning 11 missions in 2021 and 2022 to complete the space station complex, including three module launches, four Tianzhou cargo ship missions and four crewed missions to Shenzhou.
After commissioning, three taikonauts will live at the station for three months. It will also be able to host six crew members for a limited time during the mission change.
The constructed outpost is expected to account for about one-fifth the mass of the International Space Station, a project in which China was banned by the United States.
Chinese space officials said the Long March 2F and Shenzhou spacecraft will be kept in reserve at Jiuquan in case a rescue mission to the space station needs to be launched.
In 2003, China became only the third country to carry out independent human space flights after the Soviet Union / Russia and the United States. To date, China has completed six crewed missions. The most recent was the one-month two-person Shenzhou 11 mission in 2016.
follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.