Chinese space station’s new docking modules strengthen orbital science

China now has a new module on the Tiangong space station.

According to the announcement, the new module successfully docked with the Tianhe Bay of the Tiangong Manned Space Station on Sunday (July 24) at 3:15 pm EDT (19:13 GMT). (will open in a new tab) from the China Space Agency.

“The entire rendezvous and docking process took about 13 hours,” the China National Space Administration said in a statement, according to a translation provided by Google. The agency added that the three Shenzhou-14 taikonauts, who have been in space since June 5, were supposed to enter the Wentian module at some point.

The launch of the Wentian module took place earlier Sunday aboard a huge Long March 5B rocket to join Tianhe. The explosion occurred at 2:25 am EST (0625 GMT or 2:25 pm Beijing time).

On the subject: Chinese astronauts Shenzhou-12 sent stunning pictures of the Earth (photo)

The sun rises over the Earth as seen from the Chinese space station. (Image credit: CCTV)

As with previous launches of this type of rocket, the first stage of the 187-foot (57-meter) rocket will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere in an uncontrolled manner, and international space debris tracking services are monitoring its progress.

Wentian doubles as a science module and as an extension of the living space aboard the space station, which previously consisted of a single module. It houses the astronauts’ experimental rooms and sleeping quarters, allowing the Tiangong to temporarily accommodate up to six crew members during transfers. It is also equipped with a small robotic arm and an airlock for use during spacewalks.

After docking, Wentian is expected to be moved to a lateral or lateral port using a 33-foot (10-meter) module robotic arm, but China has not yet given a timeline for this maneuver.

Tianhe and Wentian together are 236 miles (381 km) above Earth, slightly below the orbit of the International Space Station. In October, China plans to launch another module called Mengtian to put more experiments into orbit.

The country is an independent player in space, according to the agency, and NASA is not allowed to “engage in any bilateral activity with China or Chinese companies.” (will open in a new tab). Recently, the Biden administration has also criticized China’s space activities several times.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or facebook (will open in a new tab).

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