China’s Long March 5B Y3 rocket launched the Wentian Lab Module from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of China’s southern island province of Hainan.
- Wentian, which means “Quest for the Heavens,” is the second of three modules and the first lab module of China’s permanent space station, Tiangong (heavenly palace).
The launch was a total success, and the module has now entered the intended orbit.
- Wentian has also successfully docked with the front port of the Tianhe core module.
This is the 24th flight mission since China’s manned space program was approved and initiated.
Tiangong Space Station
i. In April 2021, with the launch of the Tianhe module, China began building the Tiangong Space Station, the permanent space station of China.
- The station is designed with three major modules: Tianhe, Wentian, and Mengtian (“Dreaming of the Heavens”).
- The Tianhe core module has a docking port, non-habitable service section, and habitable living quarters.
ii.Similar to Wentian, Mengtian will dock with Tianhe to form a T-shaped structure once it is launched in October 2022 and is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2022.
iii. The two labs, Wentian and Mengtian, will make up the two arms of the Tianhe core module, giving the space station its final T-shape.
- The final T-shape will be similar in size to the former Russian-Soviet Mir space station.
- Tiangong, once completed, is expected to remain in low orbit 400-450 kilometers (250-280 miles) above Earth for at least 10 years.
Wentian Lab Module
i. The Wentian scientific module is 17.9 metres (59 feet) long and weighs about 23 tonnes. It consists of a work cabin, an airlock cabin, and a resource cabin.
- It is primarily used to assist astronauts as they remain in orbit and engage in extravehicular activities.
- It is also used to perform scientific experiments in space and can act as a backup to the Tianhe core module for space station management and control.
ii.It will also function as short-term living quarters for astronauts during crew rotations on the station, and is designed for long-term accommodation of only three astronauts.
iii. The Wentian is intended for science and biology experiments, and its lab module is heavier than any other single-module spacecraft currently in space.
i. It is the first time that China’s two 20-tonne spacecrafts have performed a space rendezvous and docking in orbit.
- It is also the first time that these operations have been carried out while astronauts are already stationed in space.
ii.According to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), the Shenzhou-14 astronauts entered the module through the hatch door of Wentian.
- The astronauts will perform in-orbit tasks such as attitude control of the space station and the small mechanical arm crawling, as well as testing the complex of big and small arms.
- China’s space programme has already sent probes to the Moon and landed a rover on Mars.
- In addition to a space station, China intends to build a base on the Moon and send humans there by 2030.
President –Xi Jinping
Capital – Beijing
Currency – Renminbi (RMB)