Science

The crew of China’s second space station to launch on Friday and you can watch it live

China is set to launch its second crew of three astronauts to its new space station, including the first woman to visit the orbiting outpost.

The Shenzhou 13 spacecraft is scheduled to launch on a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert at 12:23 pm EDT (1623 GMT) on Friday (Oct 15; 12:23 16). October, local time). Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency, revealed at a press conference on Thursday (October 14). You can watch the launch live here and on the Space.com homepage, courtesy of the China Central Television State Network, starting at 9:25 am EDT (1325 GMT).

Shenzhou 13 will launch just as China’s orbiting Tianhe space station module passes over the launch site in Jiuquan, allowing the spacecraft to reach and dock with Tianhe about eight hours later.

Related: The Latest News on China’s Space Program

The crew of the six-month mission was confirmed to be Zhai Zhigang (commander), Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu. The trio had been the endorsement of the recently completed Shenzhou 12 mission.

Zhai, who became the first Chinese national to conduct a spacewalk during the Shenzhou 7 mission in 2008, will be in command of the mission. This will be Ye’s first flight, while Wang will become the first female astronaut to visit Tianhe. Wang was a member of the Shenzhou 10 mission in 2013 and gave an educational lecture from space.

The main objectives of the Shenzhou 13 mission include testing critical technologies for the assembly and construction of the space station, which will receive two more modules in 2022.

Most notably, testing the transfer of a module from one docking port to another using the manual teleoperation of Tianhe’s robotic arm. The unmanned Tianzhou 2 spacecraft, which delivered supplies for Shenzhou 12, will be used as a test item, Chinese officials said.

Two or three extravehicular activities, or spacewalks, are also planned during the Shenzhou 13 mission. The main goal will be to install an adapter that will allow Tianhe’s large arm to connect to a smaller arm that will be in a future module.

Other goals include further verification of health, life and work support technologies for astronauts’ six-month stay in orbit and conducting science and technology experiments in fields such as space medicine and microgravity physics. .

Shenzhou 13 will dock at the Earth-facing nadir port of Tianhe. This means that the spacecraft will need to make a radial encounter, or R-bar, to approach the module, approaching Tianhe from a direction perpendicular to Earth, rather than along the line of Tianhe’s flight path as is the case with the most routine docking maneuvers.

The Long March 2F to launch the Shenzhou 13 crew spacecraft is vertically transferred to the platform in Jiuquan, Oc. 7, 2021. (Image credit: CMSA)

Zhai, 55, returns to space after 13 years.

“Speaking on behalf of our crew and myself, I am confident and able to complete the Shenzhou 13 mission. Confidence comes from technological and physical preparations, as well as mastery of the spacecraft’s equipment system,” said Zhai at a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Thursday. Confidence comes when these preparations are in place. With confidence, space flight is not that difficult. “

Rookie to spaceflight, Ye Guangfu, 41, expressed his joy at being selected: “I am very happy to be able to carry out this mission. As an astronaut of the second group, I am very honored and proud to remain in orbit. for six months on my first space mission. At the same time, this is really a test for me, but I am completely confident that I can complete this task. “

When asked if Wang Yaping would again lecture live from orbit to students in China, Lin confirmed that such public outreach activities would be part of the Shenzhou 13 mission.

Lin also addressed security procedures. In the event of a serious problem and loss of function of the Shenzhou 13 spacecraft, Lin said that “the emergency launch of a rescue spacecraft would immediately begin to dock with the space station and bring the astronauts back from timely manner. “

The Shenzhou 13 spacecraft and the Long March 2F rocket for Friday’s mission had previously been on standby in Jiuquan in the event of an emergency affecting the Shenzhou 12 mission.

The launch is expected to be broadcast by Chinese media, with another live broadcast accessible via CGTN’s YouTube channel.

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