China deployed a Long March 2F launcher on Wednesday to send its first manned capsule to the main module of their new station. Its launch is imminent.
The last time taikonauts flew into space was in 2016 as part of the Shenzhou-11 mission. Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong joined the Tiangong-2 station in October, before returning to Earth a month later. Incidentally, after 47 days of cumulative flight, Heipeng had also broken the record for time spent in space for a Chinese.
China's next manned space mission will be launched in a few days as part of the Shenzhou-12 mission . This will be the third of eleven missions planned for the station's construction phase in 2021 and 2022. The Tianzhou-3 cargo ship and the Shenzhou-13 crewed mission will follow in September and October, respectively.
For this new launch, the Shenzhou 12 spacecraft will be topped with a Long March 2 F rocket. In early April, the two structures had been delivered to the satellite launch center of Jiuquan, in the Gobi Desert. This Wednesday, June 9, the launcher was erected vertically on its launch pad, reveals Spacenews .
Chinese authorities have yet to reveal the planned launch date. The mission was originally scheduled to launch around June 10, but a week-long delay in the Tianzhou-2 cargo mission suggests that this deadline could also be pushed back by a similar amount of time.
During this mission, three taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) will integrate the central module of their new station. The identity of the crew members of this next manned mission is still unknown, as is the precise duration of the latter. A priori, it should last at least until September .
As for the activities on board, China will have to familiarize itself with its new station. Also, the bulk of the work will consist of doing technical checks related to the performance and function of the base module. Extra-vehicular activities are also to be expected to test the suits.
Once operational, this new station will be much smaller than the ISS (about a fifth of its mass), but will still be able to accommodate up to three astronauts for stays of up to six months. On board, the latter will conduct various scientific experiments and prepare for long-duration flights in space. It is also not excluded that a European astronaut could one day also integrate it.