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China launches Mengtian lab module as space station nears completion – Xinhua

China launches Mengtian lab module as space station nears completion – Xinhua

China launches Mengtian lab module as space station nears completion – Xinhua

The Long March-5B Y4 carrier rocket, carrying the Mengtian Space Laboratory module, blasted off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site in south China’s Hainan Province, Oct. 31, 2022. (Xinhua/Guo Zhongcheng)

Wenchang, Hainan, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) China on Monday launched the Mengtian Space Laboratory module, bringing the construction of China’s Tiangong space station to the final stage.

Mengtian, Tiangong’s second laboratory unit now flying to join the group of two already 400 km above Earth, is the last “brick” that will allow Tiangong to form a T-shaped structure, which is the planned layout when the space station is completed.

The new structure is expected to form after a series of elaborately performed missions including docking and subsequent orbital transfer.

The Long March-5B Y4 carrier rocket, carrying Mengtian, lifted off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan at 3:37 pm (Beijing time), according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA). .

After about eight minutes, Mengtian separated from the rocket and entered its predetermined orbit. CMSA announced the launch as a complete success.

This is the 25th flight mission since the country’s manned space program was approved and began in 1992.

Tiangong’s construction of a three-module national space laboratory marks a milestone in China’s three-decade effort to develop its manned space program.

new lab

The take-off mass of the new 17.88-meter unit is about 23 tons. Consisting of a work compartment, a cargo airlock compartment, a payload compartment and a resource compartment, it is the heaviest single-compartment active spacecraft in orbit in the world at the moment.

The Tianhe core unit along with the Wentian laboratory unit took an L-shape after the latter was moved at the end of September to stand in a side port of the base unit node cabin, vacating the front mooring port of Mengtian berth.

One of the challenges of the docking mission at Mengtian is the result of the relatively large orbital angle with the sun, which reduces the solar panel’s power output, said Song Xiaoguang, designer of the guidance, navigation and control (GNC) subsystem in Tiangong.

“Docking must be completed within a limited time, otherwise it must be stopped and the solar arrays adjusted to receive more sunlight,” Song said. “The docking of an asymmetric structure with an inclined bare center is also challenging,” he added.

Mengtian is designed to be connected to the SMS communication services provided by China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite System. This channel can be used as a standalone communication link in case of emergency.

Additionally, using a dedicated mobile app, astronauts can contact their family members on Earth via text or voice messages. Three astronauts from the Shenzhou-14 mission are now waiting for the new workplace, which has an available activity area of ​​about 32 cubic metres.

Frontal trials

By carrying eight tanks for science experiments and offering 37 off-vehicle mounting options, Mengtian will enable more in- and out-cabin experiments, especially those frontier experiments that can only be performed in a microgravity environment.

On board the unit is the world’s first space atomic clock system consisting of a hydrogen clock, a rubidium clock and a light clock. It is also the most accurate orbital time and frequency system in the world.

The clock assembly will support basic physics research such as measuring gravitational redshift and verifying the constant speed of light, said Zhang Shougang, chief designer of the time-frequency high-precision cabinet and director of the National Time Service Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Science (CAS).

“It can also be used to synchronize the time of major scientific facilities such as large particle accelerators and radio telescope arrays, and improve their performance,” Zhang said.

Among the Mengtian payloads are a rack capable of producing ultra-cold quantum gas very close to absolute zero, a cabinet with the ability to image – for the first time on a space station – material changes at elevated temperatures using X-rays, and the latest space-based fluid physics laboratory.

Payload designers said these platforms would create conditions unattainable on Earth, and thus serve as incubators for emerging technology and new materials such as metal alloys, crystals and semiconductors.

Mengtian also carries a toolbox with an ingenious robotic arm and augmented reality smart glass to help astronauts with maintenance.

China has built step-by-step technological capabilities into the manned space program, accumulating and learning to tackle the technical complexities of unraveling each mission.

In November 2016, two astronauts, including Chen Dong, now the Shenzhou-14 crewed mission commander, operated a mechanical arm inside Tiangong-2, the space station’s predecessor. Also on Tiangong-2, the first ever cold atomic clock was tested in space.

Now, more missions will be assigned to Chinese astronauts, with another cargo ship arriving at the space station in November.

With the subsequent arrival of Shenzhou-15 astronauts, Tiangong’s workforce will increase to six for a short time.

To facilitate the entrance and exit of cargo and large cargo, the Mengtian airlock cabin is equipped with two square hatches, one internal and one external.

In addition, the outer hatch is electrically powered, the first of its kind to be used in the history of the World Space Station. This car door reduces astronaut work and increases efficiency when transporting cargo outside the cabin, said Bai Hemin, space station system designer at the Shanghai Academy of Space Flight Technology (SAST).

With a larger door, Mengtian is able to launch miniature satellites into space. “The astronauts can install the small satellites on the payload transfer device, depressurize the airlock, and then move them out of the cabin,” said Meng Yao, Mengtian designer.

“The robotic arm outside the space station will grab the satellites and then bombard them in specific directions,” said SAST’s Meng.

The Long March-5B Y4 carrier rocket, carrying the Mengtian Space Laboratory module, blasted off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site in south China’s Hainan Province, October 31, 2022.

The Long March-5B Y4 carrier rocket, carrying the Mengtian Space Laboratory module, blasted off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site in south China’s Hainan Province, October 31, 2022.

The Long March-5B Y4 carrier rocket, carrying the Mengtian Space Laboratory module, blasted off from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site in south China’s Hainan Province, October 31, 2022.



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