China Launches The Third And Final Component Of The Space Station

Space Station

The Mengtian space lab module was launched on a Long March-5B Y4 carrier rocket from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in the southern Chinese province of Hainan on October 31, 2022, according to Xinhua News Agency. As its rivalry with the United States intensifies, China has been working to establish a continuous crewed presence in orbit for ten years. On Tuesday, its permanent space station’s third and final module docked with it.

Mengtian Module

According to the China Manned Space Agency, cited by official broadcaster CCTV, the Mengtian module landed at the Tiangong station early on Tuesday morning.

Mengtian was launched into space on Monday afternoon from the southern Hainan island’s Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. The flight and docking mission were expected to take about 13 hours to complete.

A sizable group of amateur photographers, space enthusiasts, and others observed the launch from a nearby beach.

Many people displayed their intense delight in their country’s space program and the advancements it represented by waving Chinese flags and donning T-shirts with Chinese symbols on them.

Ni Lexiong, a professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, emphasized the program’s close ties to the military and referred to it as “a symbol of the nation and a boost to the upgrading of China’s national security.”

Ni added that it “boosts the Chinese people’s confidence, fueling patriotism and positive spirit.”

Mengtian, also known as “Celestial Dream,” joins Tiangong, or “Celestial Palace,” as the station’s second laboratory module. These are linked to the Tianhe core module, the crew’s residence, and the office.

Mengtian was launched on a Long March-5B carrier rocket, one of China’s most potent families of launchers, just like its forerunners.

According to the China Manned Space Agency, Tiangong is currently manned by a crew of two men and one woman.

Early in June, Chen Dong, Cai Xuzhe, and Liu Yang arrived for a six-month stay on board, during which they will finish the station’s construction, go on spacewalks, and perform additional research.

After Mengtian arrives, another uncrewed Tianzhou cargo ship is slated to dock with the station the following month. A crewed mission is planned for December, when crews may overlap as Tiangong has space for six people.

Mengtian is 17.9 meters (58.7 feet) long, weighs around 23 tonnes, and has a 4.2-meter diameter (13.8 feet). A tiny robotic arm and an airlock for exposure to space’s vacuum will also be provided, along with space for conducting science experiments in zero gravity.

The 23-ton Wentian, or “search for the sky,” laboratory is already in orbit and heavier than any other single-module spacecraft. It is intended for scientific and biological investigations.

China intends to launch the Xuntian space observatory the following year. Although it is not a part of Tiangong, it will orbit in the same orbit as the station and may periodically dock with it for maintenance.

There have been no other planned upgrades to the space station made public.

The pressurized internal space of the station will total around 110 cubic meters (3,880 cubic feet), including the 32 cubic meters (1,130 cubic feet) added by Mengtian.

China Crewed space program.

The Mengtian launch marked the 25th flight and the third anniversary of China’s crewed space program. The real work, however, started when China became the third country after Russia and the United States to send a person into space on their own in 2003.

The People’s Liberation Army, the military component of the governing Communist Party, oversees the program, which has advanced systematically and almost entirely without assistance from outside sources. The United States denied China access to the International Space Station due to the military nature of its mission.

Despite this, the Chinese Academy of Sciences reports that China is collaborating with other countries on various projects, from aerospace medicine to microgravity physics, including those with UNOOSA, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Pakistan, and the European Space Agency on experiments aboard Mengtian.

Tianhe Module

China’s Manned Space Program launched two single-module stations that it briefly manned as test platforms before launching the Tianhe module.

The permanent Chinese station, which will weigh only around 66 tons, is considerably smaller and lighter than the International Space Station, which released its first module in 1998 and weighed about 465 tons.

If the International Space Station follows its 30-year operating plan, Tiangong, which has a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, may one day be the only space station in operation.

Uncrewed missions have also been successful for China. Its lunar exploration program gained global attention last year when its Yutu 2 rover sent back images of what was most likely just a rock but was characterized by some as a “mystery home.” The rover was the first to be positioned on the far, little-known side of the moon.

While a second Chinese rover searches for signs of life on Mars, China’s Change 5 mission brought lunar stones back to Earth in December 2000 for the first time since the 1970s. Officials are also considering a crewed expedition to the moon.

China’s Space Station Capabilities

China’s developing space capabilities were mentioned in the most recent Pentagon defense strategy, which was revealed on Thursday.

To support its comprehensive approach to joint fighting, the strategy stated that the PLA is “rapidly modernizing and integrating its space, counter space, cyber, electronic, and informational warfare capabilities in addition to strengthening its conventional forces.”

One of several concerns between China and the United States is the autonomous island of Taiwan, which Beijing has vowed to annex. In retaliation for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in September, China fired missiles over the island, engaged in war drills, and simulated a blockade.