China launches second space station module, Wentian

BEIJING: China launched the second of three modules of its permanent space station on Sunday July 24, in one of the last missions needed to complete the outpost in orbit by the end of the year.

A live stream on state broadcaster CCTV showed the 23-ton Wentian (“Quest for the Heavens”) lab module launched from the back of China’s most powerful rocket, the Long March 5B, at 6:22 a.m. GMT (2:22 p.m. Singapore time) from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on the southern island of Hainan.

Space agency personnel, seen on the live stream watching the launch progress from a control room, cheered and cheered as the Wentian separated from the rocket about 10 minutes after launch.

The launch was “a complete success”, CCTV reported shortly after.

China began construction of the space station in April 2021 with the launch of the Tianhe module, the main living quarters, in the company’s first of 11 crewed and uncrewed missions.

The 17.9m long Wentian laboratory module will be where astronauts can conduct scientific experiments, along with the other laboratory module that has not yet been launched – Mengtian (“Dreaming of the Heavens “).

Wentian has an airlock cabin which is to be the main exit entry point for extravehicular activities when the station is complete.

It will also serve as short-term accommodation for astronauts during crew rotations on the station, designed for long-term accommodation for only three astronauts.

Mengtian is expected to launch in October and, like Wentian, is to dock with Tianhe, forming a T-shaped structure.

The completion of the structure, which is about one-fifth of the International Space Station (ISS) by mass, is a source of pride for ordinary Chinese and will cap President Xi Jinping’s 10 years as leader of the ruling Communist Party of China. .

Aboard the space station are Shenzhou-14 mission commander Chen Dong and his teammates Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe. They are expected to return to Earth in December with the arrival of the Shenzhou-15 crew.