Tianzhou - “Heavenly Ship”
Meet China’s automated cargo spacecraft for the newly-launched Chinese Space Station.
Called Tianzhou, the name is a combination of Tiangong, the first Chinese station, and Shenzhou, China’s human spacecraft.
The ship can bring up to 6,500 kg of cargo, science experiments, food, clothing, spacesuits, oxygen, and fuel to the Chinese Space Station.
Tianzhou flew for the first time in April 2017. The mission included three dockings to the Tiangong-2 station and showed that Tianzhou was capable of refueling a space station in orbit.
The flight also allowed control teams to practice overseeing automated dockings with no crew onboard.
The first three flights of Tianzhou will dock to an empty Chinese Space Station. A crew of three will arrive about two weeks later for a six month mission.
Picture credit: China National Space Agency
Chang Zheng 7
Meet China's new crew and cargo rocket.
The Chang Zheng 7, nicknamed Bingjian ("Ice Arrow"), is a two stage, modern, upgraded rocket from China.
The rocket's two stages are helped at liftoff by four boosters bolted to the side of the first stage.
The Chang Zheng 7 is designed to replace the aging Chang Zheng 2F that uses highly toxic propellants and drops its rocket stages over land and, sometimes, onto villages and towns.
To solve these problems, Chang Zheng 7 uses kerosene and liquid oxygen as its propellants, which are standard rocket fuels used around the world. It also launches over the open ocean and drops its boosters and stages harmlessly into the sea.
While it will replace the Chang Zheng 2F as China's crew rocket at some point, human launches on the 2F will continue through at least the end of 2022.
While the two rockets are both operational, the Chang Zheng 7 will take cargo spacecraft to the new Chinese Space Station while the 2F launches crews to the science laboratory.
Photo credit: China National Space Administration
Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site
Wenchang is a former suborbital test site located in Wenchang, Hainan, China.
It is China's southernmost launch site. Located on an island, rocket stages are delivered via ship.
Construction of the orbital launch pads began in September 2007, and the launch site was completed in October 2014. The first orbital launch took place on June 25th, 2016.
The site has two active launch pads, with a third planned. LC-1 is used to launch the Chang Zheng 5 rocket while LC-2 is used for the Chang Zheng 7 and 8 rocket families.
Operations at Wenchang are managed by the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
The Chinese Space Station
The Chinese Space Station is a large, in-space construction project from China that will take two years to complete.
The station will have three modules for a crew of three to live and work and will have three sets of solar arrays for power. Once built, it will be one-fifth the size of the International Space Station and about the same size as the former Mir space station.
The Chinese Space Station is in a 41 degree orbit, meaning it travels as far North as 41 degrees and as far South as 41 degrees when seen from the ground.
It is designed to operate for at least 10 years.
Picture: China Manned Space Engineering Office
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