China has successfully launched the second space module to its permanent space station. The 23-tonne Wentian laboratory module was launched on the rocket, the Long March 5B, from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on the southern island of Hainan.
The Wentian lab module will enable astronauts carry out scientific experiments, along with the other lab module.
This is the second of the three space modules required for its permanent space station.
First space module Tianhe was launched in April 2021. Third module, Mengtian, is expected to be launched in October and, like Wentian, is to dock with Tianhe, forming a T-shaped structure.
China Permanent Space Station
China began constructing the space station in April 2021 with the launch of the Tianhe module, the main living quarters, in the first of 11 crewed and uncrewed missions in the undertaking.
The Wentian lab module, 17.9 metres (59 feet) long, will be where astronauts can carry out scientific experiments, along with the other lab module yet to be launched – Mengtian (“Dreaming of the Heavens”).
Wentian features an airlock cabin that is to be the main exit-entry point for extravehicular activities when the station is completed.
It will also serve as short-term living quarters for astronauts during crew rotations on the station, designed for long-term accommodation of just three astronauts.
Mengtian is expected to be launched in October and, like Wentian, is to dock with Tianhe, forming a T-shaped structure.
The completion of the structure, about a fifth of the International Space Station (ISS) by mass, is a source of pride among ordinary Chinese people and will cap President Xi Jinping’s 10 years as leader of China’s ruling Communist Party.
On board the space station are Shenzhou-14 mission commander Chen Dong and team mates Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe. They are slated to return to Earth in December with the arrival of the Shenzhou-15 crew.