China launches cargo craft Tianzhou-5 to space station to replenish supplies for next manned mission
in an effort to clear the way for a subsequent manned space trip later this year, China launched a cargo spaceship on Saturday carrying supplies for its new space station. At 10:03 am, a Long March 7 rocket carrying the cargo ship Tianzhou 5 launched from the Wenchang spaceport in the southern province of Hainan. Two hours later, the cargo ship docked with the recently finished Tiangong space station, according to the official news agency Xinhua.
Along with the three astronauts now stationed there—Chen Dong, Liu Yang, and Cai Xuzhe—China intends to deploy three additional astronauts to the space station, as per South China Morning Post's reports.
The cargo ship was carrying 1.4 tonnes of propellant for the space station complex and about five tonnes of supplies, including necessities for the three astronauts on the upcoming six-month Shenzhou 15 mission, according to Pan Weizhen, a designer of the cargo craft system from the China Academy of Space Technology.
Additionally, it was transporting tools for upcoming tests, such as a satellite, a space hydrogen and oxygen fuel cell system, and particle detecting tools.
China completed the final phase of its space station's construction on October 31 with the launch of the Mengtian space lab module, according to Xinhua.
Later this year, the Shenzhou 15 manned spacecraft is scheduled to launch. The first in-orbit crew rotation in China's space history will be carried out by the crew members of Shenzhou 14 and Shenzhou 15.
A return to Earth for the existing crew is planned for December. Tenth space station construction and supply mission is Tianzhou 5.
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