China's cargo craft docks with space station core module
China's cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-3, carrying supplies for the upcoming Shenzhou-13 crewed mission, successfully docked with the space station core module Tianhe on Monday, according to the China Manned Space Agency.
At 10:08pm, Tianzhou-3 completed a computer-orchestrated rendezvous and docking at the rear docking port of the Tianhe core module. The whole process took approximately 6.5 hours, the CMSA said.
The Long March-7 Y4 rocket, carrying Tianzhou-3, blasted off at 3:10pm from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in the southern island province of Hainan. After 597 seconds, Tianzhou-3 separated from the rocket and entered its designated orbit. At 3:22pm, the solar panels of Tianzhou-3 unfolded and began working properly.
The CMSA declared the launch a complete success.
On September 18, the Tianzhou-2 cargo craft separated from the rear docking port of Tianhe and docked with its front docking port.
Following Tianzhou-3's docking, the two cargo crafts are docked at the two ends of the Tianhe core module to form a linear shape, waiting for the arrival of Shenzhou-13 crew members.
The CMSA said Tianzhou-3 is loaded with nearly 6 tons of goods and materials, including living supplies for the astronauts, one extravehicular spacesuit for back-up, supplies for extravehicular activities, space station platform materials, payloads and propellants.
As the ancient Chinese said, to carry out an important task, supplies like rations and forage should go ahead of troops and horses. During the construction of the space station, cargo spaceships will always be launched ahead of crewed missions.
"We will transport support materials, necessary spare parts and equipment first, and then our crew," said CMSA Director Hao Chun.
Following the Tianzhou-3 mission, the Shenzhou-13 manned spaceship will be launched to dock with the core module Tianhe, and three astronauts will then begin their six-month stay in orbit.
China plans to complete the verification of key technologies and the in-orbit construction of the space station through multiple launches within two years.
Five launch missions are planned for this year, namely the launch of the Tianhe core module, Tianzhou-2 cargo ship, Shenzhou-12 crewed mission, Tianzhou-3 cargo ship and the Shenzhou-13 crewed mission. Six more missions will come in 2022, including the launch of the Wentian and Mengtian lab modules.
Monday's launch is the 20th mission of China's manned space programs and the 389th mission of the Long March rocket series.