Three Chinese astronauts launched into orbit on Thursday morning local time for a three-month mission to the nation’s first permanent space station. It will be the longest human space mission in Chinese history, and the country’s first crewed fight in nearly five years.
The mission is commanded by Nie Haisheng, 56, who has logged more than 19 days in space on two previous flights. Nie, who is a major general in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, was joined by Liu Boming, 54, who will be flying to space for the second time, and rookie astronaut Tang Hongbo, 45.
Three astronauts will launch on Thursday morning local time aboard the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft for a three-month long mission to China’s first permanent space station. It will be the longest human space mission in Chinese history, and the country’s first crewed fight in nearly five years.
Launch of the crew aboard a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center is scheduled for June 17 at 0122 UTC (June 16 at 9:22 p.m. EDT).
In a few short weeks, the International Space Station (ISS) will no longer be the only station in Earth orbit.
China plans to launch the Tianhe core module core module of its first permanent space station aboard a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site. Spaceflight Now‘s launch calendar has the flight taking place on April 29.
China will launch the Tianhe core module of its first permanent space station aboard a Long March-5B Y2 rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site during the first half of 2021, according to the chief designer of China’s human spaceflight program. Xinhuareports:
“Subsequent space missions include the launches of Tianzhou-2 cargo craft and Shenzhou-12 manned craft after the core module is sent into orbit,” Zhou [Jianping] said.
China is scheduled to complete the construction of the space station around 2022.
Two experiment modules named Wentian and Mengtian will be attached to the core. Launches of the new modules are scheduled for 2021 and 2022.
The space station will be similar in size to the Mir space station built by the Soviet Union during the 1980’s. It will have a mass about one-quarter that of the International Space Station.
Chinese astronauts will travel to the space station using three-seat Shenzhou spacecraft. Later flights will be aboard the nation’s next-generation crewed spacecraft, which will be capable of carrying six or seven astronauts. The next-generation vehicle is being designed for trips to the moon.
Robotic Tianzhou-2 spacecraft capable of carrying around 6,000 kg of cargo will resupply the station.
In a crucial step forward for China’s human and robotic spaceflight programs, a Long March 5B booster conducted its maiden flight on Tuesday carrying a prototype of the nation’s next-generation crewed spacecraft.
China’s most powerful rocket lifted off at 1000 GMT (6 p.m. local time) from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. Chinese media have reported the launch from the nation’s southern spaceport was successful.